Kids go crazy about long-distance netball visit to Camperdown

Visiting indigenous girls from Halls Creek in north-west Western Australia with grade 3 and 4 pupils at Mercy Regional College. 140818AM02    Picture: ANGELA MILNE

Visiting indigenous girls from Halls Creek in north-west Western Australia with grade 3 and 4 pupils at Mercy Regional College. 140818AM02  Picture: ANGELA MILNE

Halls Creek to Broome is a nine-hour bus ride across the West Australian desert.

It takes another four hours to fly to Melbourne and finally another three to reach Camperdown. 

Between Mercy Regional College and Halls Creek District High School is a space the size of Western Europe. This week two south-west teachers have used netball to bridge the distance. In March Mercy senior school coordinator James Castle and his wife Chelsea packed their bags for the remote indigenous community.

“When we arrived there was a real need for extra-curricular activities for girls at the school,” Mr Castle said. 

There were already programs in place for the boys, using football in the hope of keeping kids in school, but for the school’s 70 girls there wasn’t much on offer outside class. 

The Castles turned their attention to getting some netball up and running. 

“We successfully got a grant from the government and the principal jumped on board,” Mr Castle said. 

So far the pilot program and netball training led by his wife has been running for 12 weeks.

 “Just watching them grow in confidence has been really good,” Mr Castle said. 

On Sunday 14 girls from the school arrived in Camperdown for netball clinics and to prepare for a friendly match against Mercy Regional College today.

But it hasn’t all been about netball. The trip has allowed the select group to soak up the best of Victoria. During the week the group went from eating dumplings in Chinatown to a shopping spree on Chapel Street, from manicures at Victoria University to Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill.

Their south-west stay has also included a visit to a dairy farm and dinner at the home of professional netballer Sarah Wall.

Until March Mr Castle was a senior school co-ordinator at Mercy but has taken up a three-year position with Halls Creek.

“We’ve got three kids so we’ve gone up there for a big adventure. It’s a fantastic place, but it’s challenging,” Mr Castle said. 

“My wife is missing the cold.” 

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