Maree Preston had never surfed before. But, that didn’t stop the 63-year-old from joining seven other female community housing tenants for a lesson and lunch at Caves Beach in Lake Macquarie to mark International Women’s Day.
“I loved it,” she said.
“I was really nervous, however very proud of myself when I stood up.
“I had body surfed as a child and I do yoga, which I think helped a bit.”
Maree read about fear holding people back and decided learning to surf was a fun way to take her out of her comfort zone.
She’d recently participated in another tenant event organised by her housing provider, Home in Place.
The historical walk around Lake Macquarie, discovering how coal mining had influenced the area and its architecture, was so enjoyable that she was keen to take part in more activities.
“The surfing was empowering, especially doing it with other women, of all ages, who had never surfed before,” Maree said.
“As you get older, people start to treat you differently, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
“It gave me confidence.
“The smiles on our faces, as we got out of the water, said it all.”
Maree explained the drive there and back, as well as the lunch, was a great opportunity to connect with other women from all walks of life.
“We bonded despite not knowing each other,” she said.
“Everyone had a different story, but we could all relate to one another.”
Lake Macquarie-based Women Soulful Surf was engaged to run the lesson.
Home in Place’s Newcastle tenant engagement officer Meaghan French said the event was one of many that she and her colleagues organised to help tenants to connect with each other.
“It’s all about giving them skills and confidence to participate in their community,” she added.
“We had women who live in affordable housing, social housing and transitional housing from Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, the Central Coast and the Lower Hunter aged between 16 to their 60s.
“The ocean is a healing place.
“It was a great environment for me and the other women to relax and get to know each other.
“Getting to know them helps us to know how to better support them.”
Other tenants recently participated in Money Matters sessions to give them financial capacity and links to other service providers that can help them as they battle cost of living pressures.
This year’s calendar of engagement events has been designed around topics and themes including Youth Week, Men’s Health Week, RUOK Day and NAIDOC Week.