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19 Sep 2012

Fishing 4 Therapy wins hearts and minds in Centennial Park

Like many local places, you know of them but often don’t get around to visiting them. The Fly Casting Pond in Centennial Park is one of those places – if it wasn’t for ‘Fishing 4 Therapy’ and other carp management programs that the Centennial Parklands Foundation runs there, I may have missed out on it.

A fellow dog walker put me on to it, of course!


Fishing for what?

Located just near Centennial Park’s Education Precinct a number of people with a range of disabilities have been coming along for the past year or two and where, for some, a part of them has been rekindled that they thought was forever lost. Simple actions that the able-bodied take for granted are revived through giving them physical therapy tools.

Fly Casting Pond is an idyllically peaceful setting. Set within the inner ring of Grand Drive, it is enclosed by high rushes, sedges and trees; it’s more like visiting a dam on a country property than visiting somewhere that is so close to the Sydney CBD.

The viewing frame at Fly Casting Pond has been adapted for wheelchair access

The viewing frame at Fly Casting Pond has been adapted for wheelchair access

Attention to detail is the order of the day. The pond’s viewing platform has been adapted to suit people in wheelchairs and frames. The Parklands’ carp management volunteer supervisor, Tony Steiner, is a careful and guiding presence.

Tony points out a story of one participant, Russell Potter, whose experience on one of the fishing workshops is one of those stories that brings home to you just how invaluable these fishing programs are.

“On arriving that day we were greeted with a nice but quietly withdrawn man who felt he could only sit and watch the others. We explained to him that he had to also participate and that we needed his help in testing our new custom made rod and reel harness for people with disabilities.”

“What he did not know was that one of our volunteers, Neil Kemp, had used his trade background to build a prototype outfit that allowed him to cast and retrieve the line with only his one hand. Over the next few hours we taught him how to cast and wind it back. He started to find that he could do it on his own and within a short time his confidence had grown to casting and fully fishing on his own.”

“This eventually led Russell to catching a carp of around 2kg that saw him stand tall and straight with pride and then – a few tears of joy. He explained that since his aneurysm he has not been able to play an active role in his children’s physical activities, other than as a spectator and he finds it hard as they are both under 9 years of age.”


The idea for the disability program belongs to Tony, a keen fisherman and member of Australian National Sportsfishing Association (ANSA). He approached the association with his idea and ANSA who then took it to the Centennial Parklands Foundation.

Now in partnership, this program operates regularly and has been the scene of many touching and inspirational moments.

In June 2012 everyone at Centennial Parklands was delighted when the program won an industry award.

The Fishing 4 Therapy organisers have the last word on this program: “The program has allowed those in walking frames the freedom to participate in sport. It allows the elderly to enjoy the outdoors while reliving their younger days. It allows stroke victims, or people with Cerebral Palsy or Down Syndrome, the freedom to express themselves after months or years of being locked inside their bodies and the young to experience a new side of relaxation and life that an electronic game set cannot offer.”


Tony shows a carp to a very proud participant

Tony shows a carp to a very proud participant


A program under strict control and guidance

For anyone concerned about this type of activity, all the fishing programs in Centennial Parklands are for pest species management. The only reason people are allowed to fish at all is to manage the carp population; no one is allowed to fish in the Parklands unless on an accredited and managed program.

Guest blogger: Tempe Macgowan

Tempe Macgowan writes about urban life. She has a background in urban design and landscape architecture, and has been writing about matters relating to these for the past fifteen years. She studied Landscape Architecture initially and then after working on the redevelopment of Hyde Park in Sydney in the early 1990′s she went on to study Urban Design at Harvard University. Visit Tempe’s blog.

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