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Creek cleanup builds better lives

by Richard Bruinsma

Local creeks have much less rubbish thanks to an inspiring new approach to support work – it includes things like rock climbing, bush walking, and gym sessions in its overall efforts to develop skills and help clients build fulfilling lives.

Mundane visits to coffee shops and shopping centres have been completely scrubbed from the activities list of NDIS provider Quest Collective. Instead, it plans adventurous and challenging outings that teach new skills, and help their clients plan and achieve bigger life goals.

Business founder Dan Fuller said their goal is to improve people's mental and general wellbeing and see that overflow into building meaningful relationships.

“I believe we were created to have beautiful relationships with others that brings us joy, purpose and resilience,” Dan said.

He said experiencing the outdoor activities alongside his client – and good mate – Jake, 15, has led to an ongoing mission to clean rubbish from Petrie Creek near Nambour, and Cornmeal Creek at Maroochydore.

“One day we were driving out there and Jake noticed a heap of shopping trolleys and different bits and pieces in the creek, and he just pinned it with me, saying, ‘Hey, why don’t we bring the standup paddleboard down here one day and pull those trolleys out’,” Dan explained of the birth of the cleanup campaign.

“Jake borrowed his dad’s stand-up paddleboard and we took it down there… and tried to pull these shopping trolleys, which were buried in three feet of mud, out of the creek.

“We just laughed our heads off, we were like little kids, and out of that got birthed a desire to clean up the whole creek system so, essentially, over the last six months we’ve been going between outdoor adventure, gym, working on different goals that Jake has, but primarily focusing on the

bush and river clean up.”

So far, along with more than two dozen dumped shopping trolleys, Jake and Dan estimate they’ve removed 250 garbage bags of rubbish from the creeks, more than eight dump loads of scrap metal, dumped push bikes, and thousands of plastic straws and discarded vapes.

“It’s good fun, we have a lot of laughs along the way and I enjoy it because I’m helping out people and the environment,” Jake said of his campaign.

The cleanup efforts have attracted positive comments from the community, including offers to join in, which has further encouraged and energised the duo.

“Plenty of people who have noticed it on a Facebook page in Nambour, they were curious and wanted to know what we were doing, it made me feel happy, it was good,” Jake explained.

“It’s a lot different than usual stuff; you go outdoors, (do things like) cliff jumping, and just exploring nature and having a fun time out there, instead of being in a crowded space or city or plaza.”

The inspiration for Quest Collective itself was borne out of Dan’s 15-year background in youth work, including in the disability sector. His personal interest in the outdoors, mountain hiking, multi-day hikes, camping and rock climbing, inspired him to combine the support work and youth mentoring with adventurous outdoor learning experiences.

“Back in 2020, I just decided, ‘Hey, I’m just going to run with it, this is where my heart and soul is’, and saw so much transformation from the men and women I had been offering that to… so, essentially, out of that, Quest Collective got birthed and been doing it for the last three years and seeing amazing results.”

Dan says Jake’s experiences are a great example of what can be achieved when NDIS providers take a new and fresh approach to support efforts. He hopes Jake’s wonderful story can create ‘a ripple effect’ that influences others in the support community.

“Jake’s cleanups have been a life-changing experience. He’s inspiring, he’s built his self-esteem, his confidence, he’s a leader, and he’s humble. He’s certainly inspired and led me,” Dan said.

“Jake flagged with me what he wanted to do, and I’ve just helped make it happen, and here we are today, essentially wanting to share that to the wider community and to the NDIS sector, to inspire and help other people see that there’s so much scope here through NDIS to do some amazing meaningful work in families.

“It’s just about having a real focus on person-centred relationships and then just working out what somebody’s goals are, what their skills are, what skills they want to develop and then just facilitating that.

“If you don’t have an interest in something, it doesn’t energise you, it doesn’t create joy… it’s about matching the right person with the right support; what we’ve tried to do is just match people who have similar value systems, similar passions, and then throw fuel on the fire to make it even better.”

As for Jake, he’s enjoyed the adventures and cleanup so much, he’s considering following in Dan’s footsteps to pursue a future career that offers encouragement and growth to others, as an NDIS support worker.

“It just seems fun what he’s doing, I’m enjoying it,” Jake said, “And I want to kind of share it onto other people.”

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