Croc Festival

cairns-west-state-school-weipa-06The Croc Festival® is bigger than ten bears. The oval at the Western Cape College in Weipa is a sea of colour, the air thick with anticipation. Twelve hundred kids from all over Cape York and beyond have descended on the town to get a taste of the big, wide world.

Heroic tales abound of students being choppered off islands too small to take a light plane so that they can make it to the festival. The hardy crew from Bwgcolman Community School on Palm Island spent many long hours in a bus traveling on some pretty dodgy roads to get here. Back in 1999, the mob from Coonamble High School in New South Wales clocked up 5,200 kilometres making the road trip to the Weipa Croc Festival®. This is a big bash and no-one wants to miss out.

The theme of the festival is ‘100% In Control’. It’s a reference to moving beyond alcohol and drugs to take part in all that life has to offer, but there are no heavy-handed messages or guilt trips here. This whole event exudes a wonderfully contagious spirit of energy and adventure.

The Croc Festival® is all about having a go. The tennis court at the Western Cape College is not quite as flash as the one at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club – Wiradjuri woman Evonne Goolagong-Cawley would know, because she has twice won the world’s premier tennis event on the venerable Wimbledon courts. But today she’s at Weipa, all patience and smiles as she volleys with students from Lockhart River and Badu Island.

In the few minutes I watched, I didn’t see any obvious stars of the future – though Evonne says she’s spotted some real talent at these events. What I did see was kids having a crack. The pursuit of excellence surely begins with the confidence to give things a try, and that’s what the Croc Festival® supplies in abundance.

At the ‘I Want To BeTM‘ workshop, students are having their photo taken for their ‘Passport to Success’. The kids select from a wide range of possible future vocations, and receive their ‘passport’, which proclaims them a doctor, emergency worker or hairdresser – anything they can dream of.

On the back of the card is a brief job description and a reminder of the educational qualifications that the students must pursue to realise their dream. Here at the Croc Festival®, connections are made between going to school and realising a career ambition. School is linked to real life, and suddenly, it all makes sense.yarrabah-state-school-weipa-06

Olympic champion Kyle Vander Kuyp is here, telling kids with eyes like saucers that they can be anything they want to be. He relates easily to the young students as they hang on his every word, and then poke disbelievingly at the muscles on his calves. “You can be like this too,” he says, with some friendly advice to be careful about the food they eat. The positive energy in the room is palpable. Hurdles are only there to be jumped.

The tents around the oval bristle with information about career opportunities for these enthusiastic young people. Comalco, Centrelink, Queensland Police, James Cook University and the Cape York Land Council are just a few of the organisations here that can expand the horizons of kids from small communities.