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Dean Smith is Ridgy-Didge

Helping others and building community is in Dean Smith’s blood.

“My grandmother and mother do this type of work as does my daughter and son. I have the most supportive wife and my whole family gets behind me,” he said.

His great-grand mother and grandmother are both from the stolen generation. His great-grandmother ended up on Deebing Creek Mission and her children on Purga Mission.

Mr Smith was born and raised in Ipswich and he is a pillar in the community, something he puts down to his strong connection to family and sports.

“My father and grandfather were my biggest role models. Sports kept me out of trouble and my Aunties and Uncles pulled me into line if I needed it,” Mr Smith said.

Dean Smith, an Advanced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker at West Moreton Health, has won an Individual Award in the Child Friendly Excellence Awards run by Mission Australia for his outstanding work in the community.

The awards focused on the various programs Mr Smith is working on within his role at West Moreton Health and as a volunteer in his own time.

“I’m on the board of the Kambu Warriors Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sports. I help run a rugby league development program that runs for 12 weeks and teaches kids from five to 18 years,” he said.

“It’s expensive to put our kids in sports, then you have to drive them to training and games, pay for shoes and uniforms.

“For $35 they get a jersey, shorts and socks and an hour of training a week over 12 weeks with local coaches and mums and dads. At the end of it they play a friendly game against Toowoomba.”

Mr Smith said it was not just about fitness. He sees it strengthening the community.

“We have about 170 juniors now. Their family get involved too and seeing the hill full of parents and siblings is a good thing. It’s keeping kids at school,” he said.

“A number of our boys have gone through into the mainstream system, some have played for the Queensland indigenous side, possible verse probable and Queensland Cup.”

Another one of the many hats he wears, Mr Smith teaches school students across the region to play the didgeridoo as part of his role helping the community achieve better health.

Mr Smith said the program was about more than learning to play an instrument.

He said learning one of the world’s oldest wind instruments taught students leadership, respect for themselves and others, and importantly, how to take care of their health. Reflecting custom, the program is designed for boys and men.

“We are using the didgeridoo to help young boys and men improve their lung health either because of asthma or the damages from smoking,” Mr Smith said.

“We use a very small percentage of our lung capacity on a daily basis, by learning the didgeridoo we are learning to use more of our lungs.

“Making a noise with a didgeridoo is fine, you use your lips to vibrate together, but learning the circular breathing technique you need to sustain the noise for two minutes or more is really challenging.

“You need to practice every single day.’’

He said lung capacity tests showed the program had led to a 20 per cent improvement in lung health over a 10-week period.

Students had also shown significant improvements in behaviour and school attendance.

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