Fern Champion and Georgia Garr are both passionate advocates for supporting mental health. Fern’s a school counsellor and Georgia’s a school psychologist, and they’ve teamed up to bring One Wave Fluro Fridays to Forster. Fern explains how salt water therapy, fluro clothing and open, non-judgemental conversation can help you, too, lead a happier life …
Hi Fern. What’s your association with the Great Lakes area?
I moved to the Great Lakes area with my family when I was five years old and grew up in Forster. I was blessed to have parents who loved the beach, the ocean, snorkelling, surfing and exploring, so we spent most weekends soaking up all the coastal magic of our area.
From an early age I noticed how peaceful and happy I felt at the beach, and it became my place to go when things felt tough through my teenage years. I was eager to leave our area after high school and moved to the big smoke of Sydney, where I still found solitude at the beaches of the Eastern Suburbs. For a decade I travelled and lived in different places around the world and in Aus, but eventually I was drawn home, moving back to the Great Lakes with my partner in 2016.
I never truly realised as a child that our stretch of coast is the most beautiful in the world, but now I acknowledge this daily. I work as a school counsellor at Great Lakes College and teach yoga at Forster Yoga Studio and really enjoy being part of this wonderful community. My greatest joy is sharing the magic of the beach and the ocean with my one year old daughter, Sunny.
How did you become aware of One Wave – and what can you tell us about the organisation?
I first became aware of One Wave when I was living in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. I surfed a lot at Bondi, and a friend who knew I was passionate about mental health told me about a gathering that happens at Bondi Beach on Friday mornings … Fluro Friday. I did a bit of research online and found that the organisation behind Fluro Friday is called One Wave.
One Wave is a non-profit surf community tackling mental health issues with a simple recipe … saltwater therapy, surfing and fluro. One Wave’s vision is to give people hope that they can beat mental health issues by creating a supportive community connected by the ocean. One Wave is normalising mental health issues by helping people understand they are not alone and that it’s OK not to be OK.
After all, mental health is real, so let’s talk about it.
Why did you think “Fluro Fridays” would be relevant to our area?
I have the joy of working with children and young people in my role as a school counsellor, and the question of how we can better support the wellbeing of this population is one I ask myself daily. My school psychologist colleague and friend, Georgia Garr, has the same passions for mental health and surfing and while chatting one day, we discovered we both saw Furo Fridays as a positive initiative that would work in our area.
So many people in our area already enjoy the beach and being in the ocean, either swimming or surfing, so Georgia and I both see this as the perfect inroad for starting a conversation around mental health. Georgia and I are coordinating the Fluro Fridays together.
So, tell us what’s involved with Fluro Fridays. When and where does everyone meet locally … and how does the “fluro” factor fit into the equation?
Fluro Fridays raise awareness for mental health by surfing, swimming or even doing some yoga, or just hanging on the beach in Fluro clothes to draw attention and getting people talking about mental health, a topic which is normally avoided. Fluro Fridays are now happening at approximately 65 beaches all over the world!
The Great Lakes Fluro Friday tribe meet at South One Mile Beach Forster at 6:30am on the first Friday of every month. As we move into the warmer months later in the year, this may increase to every Friday morning.
Who can take part in Fluro Fridays – are there any age/physical restrictions?
Anyone and everyone is welcome, whether you surf or not! Just being outdoors at the beach at that time of the morning is a wonderful way to start the day.
How rewarding has it been for you to be involved with the programme?
I have personally been involved with a number of different Fluro Fridays in Australia. One of the most powerful things for me has been the honesty with which people share their personal stories with mental health issues when we gather at the beach. These stories are met with open ears and open hearts. There is no judgement from others, and through this comes the understanding that it really is OK to not be OK and we all have these times in our lives.
There was a special One Wave event recently … what can you tell us about it?
There was a very exciting special event on 23rd March, when the One Wave organisation had its fifth birthday. On that day Fluro Friday tribes created a fluro wave at 65 beaches across 20 countries, to bring a whole lot of colour and awareness to mental health. Local One Wave communities stood at the water’s edge dressed in their brightest fluro, linking arms, with a simple message – to let anyone facing mental health challenges, know they are not alone.
OneWave Founder Grant Trebilco said, “It’s time to make an invisible issue visible and let people know it’s totally OK, not to be OK”. If you missed this celebration this year, don’t worry! We create the fluro wave for every One Wave birthday.
Where can we find out more info?
Head to our Facebook page, Fluro Friday Forster for more information and upcoming events (https://www.facebook.com/FluroFridayForster/)