Local Home Grown this month is Dave Connett. From surfing the Great Lakes beaches,to helping pinoeer Red Frogs at Schoolies, we catch up with this passionate man to find out what he is up to now.
Name: Dave Connett.
Age: 35. You grew up in the Great Lakes. What did you love about growing up there?
I was raised at Smiths Lake, which means my greatest memories of the Great Lakes revolve around enjoying all the things to do in around the water – surfing, fishing, boating, swimming, exploring and basically enjoying this remarkable patch of creation. Growing up with great friends from school (Palms Primary & Forster High), Soccer (Pacific Palms Panthers) and my church (Lakeside Church in Tuncurry) make all those fun memories so valuable.
Where did life take you when you finished your HSC?
I moved to Queensland to study an Advanced Diploma in Ministry and applied that learning through youth and community outreach programs in Brisbane and later on the Sunshine Coast. We saw good success and so for a couple of years, a part of my role was to travel across Australia and sometimes internationally to train well-meaning churches to connect and meet the needs of youth in their community. I met Rebecca – my Kiwi wife – in Brisbane, and we got married in 1999. We have 3 boys: Sam (8), Josh (5), Joel (2). My family is definitely the joy of my life.
You’ve been involved in Red Frogs at Schoolies. Tell us about this?
In 1997, myself and the 4 guys who ran a youth and community service on the south side of Brisbane became aware of the destructive effects that Schoolies had on way too many of the teenagers in our programs – and decided to do something about it. As it turns out, the chaplaincy service that we initiated helped more than just our kids, and the Gold Coast community, desperate for answers, loved it. Called Red Frogs because of the Allen’s Red Frog lollies we give out to break the ice, our trained volunteers would ensure the safety of Schoolies.
Keeping kids from the clutches of Toolies (the name given to older visitors to the Coast who take advantage of intoxicated and vulnerable kids), helping hurt/intoxicated/depressed Schoolies, helping in accommodation mediations and personal crises, partnering with Ambulance and making referrals to counsellors were just some of the things we started. We also provide Red Frogs seminars for Grade 11s and 12s in a heap of schools to educate and help kids to not become another statistic.
Red Frogs was so successful, that in its 15th year it’s now the largest support network for Schoolies in Australia in 15 Schoolies hot spots around Australia.
Not long after we started the Schoolies chaplaincy, we realised that for many the party continues into O-Week at uni, and far too often we found teenagers with bucket loads of potential throwing it all down the toilet with poor choices fuelled by all kinds of substances and a lack of access to decent support. So Red Frogs uni chaplaincy was launched and now is a major support for university students across Australia. It’s rare to find a uni where Red Froggers aren’t making a positive difference.
So, after starting Red Frogs on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and in Brisbane, I am now the Chairman of the charity foundation that runs the local Red Frog programs in Newcastle University and for a number of Hunter Music Festivals. It’s always fun to join the team when I get the opportunity to don a frog T-shirt and get amongst it (usually at a time of the evening that I’d normally be snoring).
Where are you currently based?
Three years ago I was asked to move to Newcastle to be the lead pastor of Goodlife church (www.yourgoodlife.org.au) and oversee the remarkable charity foundation it runs for the community. So Rebecca and I took up the challenge and are so glad we did. I’m living in Mayfield and loving a huge improvement of surf quality (even though the temperatures aren’t an improvement for me)!
What do you love about your job?
Every day I get to help people – from food hampers to life coaching, marriage counseling to business mentoring, preaching the gospel at a church service, celebrating the birth of a child and loving a grieving family. But it doesn’t end there; I get to gather and train teams of people who do the same – locally, across the country and internationally. I get to do life with the most remarkable, generous and passionate bunch of people you could ever meet. Pastoring Goodlife church is my dream job, I’m now getting paid to do things I used to volunteer for – what a privilege.
When you see a marriage that was on the rocks and you see it truly reconciled, stand with a graduating uni student who tried to bail, see a person free of their addiction or pull a kid down from the balcony they were going to jump from. When you see a person lay down their prejudices, forgive their abuser, hold on to a steady job or walk their daughter down the aisle.
When yet another child is sponsored through Compassion, when a business person risking it all sees the results of their hard work, or when you pray for a healing and see one of God’s kids walk free – you realise the awards, handshakes, accolades and bright lights aren’t everything. My career highlight is getting to do all this alongside my wife, kids and a stellar bunch of people.Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Doing the same, but bigger and better, with more campuses of Goodlife church and Goodlife foundation bringing the best out of more people in more places. When you aren’t working, where can we find you?
Surfing, spearfishing, gym, playing and possibly climbing something with my kids, coffee and movies with my bride, BBQ with friends.
Words to live by – serious: You could cut me up into a thousand pieces and lay them in the street, and every piece will still love you – David Wilkerson 1931 – 2011.
Be very careful when dining at a salad bar.
Never be ashamed of dental hygiene. Never complain about something you aren’t willing to volunteer for. Conformity is the gaoler of freedom and the enemy of growth.
A great oak is only a little nut that held its ground. Faith is best proved through the evidence of a changed life. No planking while you’re plonking. Home is the prize.