Tall Ship Leeuwin: A Celebration of Ability

Hannah Adams

Brendan has passion for boats. So imagine his excitement to be sailing on Western Australia's Tall Ship Leeuwin as part of International Day for People with disAbility celebrations.

At an early age Brendan watched his older brothers head out to sea on a sailing cruise but he was too young to join them. From this time, Brendan who has autism developed an absolute obsession for sailing vessels.

Living close to Fremantle Brendan's family, enjoy the sights and sounds of vibrant Port of Fremantle. In particular, Brendan keeps a close eye out to see if the tall ship Leeuwin is in Harbour.

Brendan's dream came true on Saturday 3rd December 2005 more than 50 young people aged 12-25 years with disAbilities and their families were treated to a day sail on the ship thanks to the on-going support from Variety WA.

"I can't believe that I am sailing. I am not on the wharf!" Brendan said.

Nominated by his Grandparents, Brendan was selected to sail for a day aboard the Leeuwin and celebrate International Day for People with disAbilities. The Australian Government Department of Family and Community Services proudly sponsor International Day.

The pre-sail entertainment included a magical performance from members of the Variety Youth Choir.

On meeting Leeuwin Founder Mr Malcolm Hay, Brendan explained to him that Leeuwin was a very beautiful ship. Mr Hay said that he had to agree and signed a drawing of the Leeuwin for Brendan to add to his sailing ship picture collection.

Leeuwin is proud to be the only tall ship in Australia to offer ocean adventure programs specifically designed for young people with intellectual, physical, sensory and neurological disabilities. Trainees experience the thrill of tall ship sailing in a safe, supportive environment. It was a great way to meet new friends, learn new skills and increase selfconfidence.

"Participants are often surprised at what they can achieve if they just given the opportunity."

said Leeuwin spokesperson, Hannah Adams

"It is important to create a safe and supportive environment in which a young person can achieve their personal goals."

The tall ship Leeuwin II, is owned and operated by the Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation, a private not-for-profit organisation, based in Fremantle, WA.

Launched in 1986 Leeuwin II, is one of Australia's largest ocean going tall ships and is dedicated to challenging and inspiring people on adventurous ocean voyages.

People who have sailed on Leeuwin talk of the romance of tall ships, the beauty of the sails full of wind, the feeling of warm wooden deck under feet, the sounds of traditional sea shanties and the sense of being lost in another time of adventure and exploration.

The very mechanics of sailing and manoeuvring a tall ship require teamwork, trust and belief.

The ship becomes a social community that builds friendships with the satisfaction of achieving personal goals.

Young people can apply for an extended 5-Day ocean going voyage in March each year. For many years the partnership between Leeuwin Ocean Adventure Foundation and Variety WA has been providing an opportunity for young people with limitations to sail from Fremantle.

Previous voyage participants agreed that "Positive attitude + understanding = no limits!"

Thanks to their feedback, Leeuwin has braille plaques located on the ship, including one at the top of the main mast. Leeuwin operates under the principle of 'challenge of choice'. Although trainees are expected to be involved in many aspects of operating the ship, the level of challenge is up to them. Climbing the mast is optional! Or is may be their goal.

The Leeuwin provides an exciting environment where young people get a real sense of achievement and helps them learn skills that are transferable to their home, school or work life.

After the initial 5-Day voyage at sea many young people return to sail on short summer daysails as Volunteer Crew. This allows recent voyage participants to remain involved with Leeuwin to enhance supportive environment where people (of all abilities) can work together. This is an important example of harnessing an individual's strengths - a celebration of ability.

The Foundation offers voyage along the Australia coast between Esperance and Darwin. A wide range of youth development programs and adult eco voyages as well as day and twilight sails is available. For more information visit www.leeuwin.com or call 08 9430 4105.