A RARE chance to inspire healthy futures

Kingaroy State High School’s Rowan Gordon dreams about a future in basketball.

Now he has at least two pathways via which he can fulfil that sporting ambition after a visit from staff and students from Australian Catholic University’s School of Behavioural and Health Sciences to schools in the South Burnett region, about 250km north of Brisbane.

Hundreds of young learners from the region opened their minds to the possibility of scientific careers timed to bloom at the 2032 Olympic Games.

The RARE (Rural and Remote Experience) Initiative immersed high school students in the fields of sport and exercise science, terrain that is expected to thrive as investment into high performance and community sport infrastructure escalates ahead of the Brisbane Olympics.

South Burnett towns like Cherbourg, Murgon and Kingaroy were once country launchpads for indigenous NRL stars Steve Renouf, Willie Tonga and Selwyn Cobbo, Tokyo beach volleyball silver medallist Taliqua Clancy and 1962 Commonwealth boxing champion Jeffrey Dynevor.

The message to the next generation was that there are even more pathways off the field towards fulfilling roles in health, and high performance and community sport.

“Major sporting events leave an enormous legacy in terms of facilities and technology, and there is no bigger event than the Olympics,” said Dan Chalkley, a lecturer at ACU specialising in skill acquisition and technology in sport.

“Studying in this field can unlock doors to so many jobs, including exercise scientist, performance analyst and strength and conditioning coach, or you could go down the clinical track. Further study could land you in teaching or research.

“We’re excited to give these students a glimpse of what that might look like and maybe ignite in them some big ideas.”

According to a range of data, students from the South Burnett region are less likely to advance to bachelor or other training courses then their metropolitan peers.

Delivered in collaboration with the Equity Pathways Unit, ACU’s RARE Initiative addresses disadvantage in rural communities by removing cultural and socioeconomic barriers to higher education.

Clinical exercise physiologists from ACU led participating students through an assortment of workshops, including motor learning and fitness testing.

A big drawcard was the virtual reality (VR) technology that enabled students to explore human anatomy in a virtual environment, and test their reaction time in a series of games.

“For many remote Year 12s, uni can look like a pretty lonely and unforgiving environment. That doesn’t have to be the case,” ACU equity pathways officer Jake Hardiman said.

“By taking a taste of uni to them, we hope to bust some myths around higher education, fuel their aspirations and ultimately ease their transition into future studies.”

Year 9 student Rowan is a member of Kingaroy’s Clontarf Academy which aims to improve the education, discipline, life skills, self-esteem and employment prospects of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Choosing a path beyond secondary school is still a distant prospect for him but he knows there are options.

“My sister just finished senior and she might be going to uni,” he said. “Today was a lot of fun, and we get a lot of support from school so I wouldn’t mind doing something in sport.”

RARE also shone a light on ACU’s Uni Step-Up which provides opportunities for students to complete two first-year units and develop key relationships with university staff and peers while still at secondary school.


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