Swimming the River on Horseback 

Swimming the River on Horseback was an intensive program connecting youth and frontline support workers to explore the principles of stockmanship, and worked toward building support structures around each participant to sustain positive change. 

The initiative targeted the social and emotional wellbeing challenges experienced by Aboriginal youth in Kununurra, including mental distress, anger, self-harm, and school truancy. These issues, intertwined with youth justice concerns, are now prioritized by both the government and the community.  

The program name, ‘Swimming the River on Horseback’ has a significant meaning.  

Wunan’s metaphor, ‘Swimming the River’ is used to describe what Aboriginal people need to do to become purposeful, self-reliant participants in society. While swimming the stream, they need to avoid life obstacles (crocodiles) such as alcohol abuse, passive welfare and contact with the legal system to reach the opportunities which lie on the other side of the river. 

The program was followed by systematic and robust evaluation, so that lessons learnt are captured and the project can be replicated in the future. 

The program's success was greatly attributed to various stakeholders. Special thanks to Carlton Hill Station managers Andrew and Brooke for providing their cattle, Steve Burke of Horsepower Training for mentoring our youth in livestock work, and role models Houston Purdie, Steele Curtin of Glen Hill Cattle Co, and Lexine Mourambine of Nyamba Buru Yawuru. 

The program received substantial support from various individuals and organisations, including Tanya, Kara, Marcia, and Terry from the MG Corp T120 program, our dedicated police officers Jarrod, Sarah, Nick, Lauren, and Carly, our exceptional horse team members Kristie, Anthea, and Kasey, Mike Keighley from Far Out Adventures, the commendable staff from Youth Justice, DCP, and the Department of Education, Vicky Boraz and Ross Tinney for their excellent photography, NIAA staff, and Green Collar for their generous sponsorship.  

Wunan directors and employees, including the Lily Lagoon Resort team, provided crucial ongoing support, contributing significantly to the program's success. 

Special thanks to the KCAF (Kimberley Community Action Fund) Grants Program and the State Government for making the initiative possible. 

Two men smiling

Rodeo Boy