Every weekend of the year, in the waters off Melbourne, something inspiring takes place.
People with special needs – men and women, girls and boys – experience all the simple joys and freedom of casting a line and trying to catch a fish.
Paul Bennett is the founder and driving force behind Ferntree Gully not-for-profit group Introfish,- a unique charity he set up to share the pleasure and benefits of fishing.
“We specialise in boat fishing trips for special needs kids and adults including troubled youth, our service are free and we operate on weekends and holidays,” he said.
“Groups who have enjoyed our service include respite care, vision impaired youth in government care, everyday kids and adults.
“Fishing is a wholesome sport where every kid who has rod fishing has a chance to catch a big one.
Paul’s decision to dedicate nine years to providing fishing trips emerged from his own personal tragedy – the death of his son who was born prematurely and with special needs.
“I always said I would take my son fishing but never got the chance, then I came across a report which looked at the benefits that fishing provides to people with schizophrenia, Asperger’s, Down syndrome, and it showed it was an absolute winner,” he said.
Paul saw other sports including AFL, cricket and rugby union all helping people with special needs, and saw no reason fishing couldn’t do the same.
“It’s the neutral environment on the water away from their normal surroundings where they get in trouble, the bay gives them a place to turn off, enjoy fishing and reset their thoughts, goals and ambitions,” he said.
The registered not for profit fishing group is a specialist fishing service for special needs youth with disabilities, and works with their coordinators, carers and parents to provide a fun and active learning experience through land and boat fishing trips conducted on Western Port and Port Phillip Bay.
You can find out more about Introfish by going to http://introfish.com.au/