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Making waves: Glenn Cooper

Making Waves is a series dedicated to sharing the stories of trailblazers, adventurers, innovators, pioneers and people who are doing good things in boating, fishing and recreational water sports.

Glenn Cooper from That’s the Thing About FishingGlenn Cooper is a veteran angler on a mission. He wants to use fishing as a medium to heal and re-connect people with their communities across Victoria. In 2015, he founded charity That’s The Thing About Fishing (TTTAF) and has been improving lives one fish at a time ever since. Here, he talks to us about what inspires his work and his dreams of making an even bigger impact across the state.

What inspired you to start TTTAF?

I had a rough childhood scarred with abuse and experienced some real lows in my personal life. My troubles brought me face-to-face with many people who suffered depression, anxiety and drug-addiction problems. Luckily, I’m in a much better place these days but I have deep empathy for those who aren’t and want to help them.

In 2015, I was injured and had a bit of time on my hands so went fishing a lot. When I was on my local pier I bumped into all sorts of people and discovered how good fishing was at breaking down barriers. It sparked my idea of using fishing to help people work through their problems and make new friends.

Why is fishing a good medium for healing and social connection?

Casting a line makes you feel calm. It gives you a focus, a sense of pride (especially when you catch something!) and a common interest you can bond with others about that can often open deeper conversations that lead to better outcomes.

I’ve taught many people to fish and still love watching that moment when they catch their first fish. A shock of happiness and excitement hits them. And it’s this feeling that gives them a reason to grab their rod and do something positive rather than get distracted or tempted to make poor choices.

Tell us a bit more about TTTAF?

I told my mate Brian Rowley about my vision and he got right behind it, so we founded the charity TTTAF together. From there, we started making connections with disability groups, youth groups, special needs schools, family violence support groups and mental health community groups to promote the power of fishing for positive change.
It took a bit of time for the message to get through but today we run year-round fishing clinics for vulnerable people on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Frankston Pier.

How many people work at TTTAF?

We have 20 volunteers who donate their time for free. Many are local fisherman and some are program graduates who now want to give back to their community.

Glenn Cooper from That’s the Thing About FishingYou must have seen a lot of people turn their lives around. Can you tell us about a particularly inspiring person/story?

Everyone who comes to our clinics has a different story and we respect that. But regardless of who they are or where they’ve come from there’s a common thread – they all thrive on the banter, friendship, learning and feeling of belonging that our clinics give them.

I meet lots of inspiring people but one who sticks out is a bloke who broke his back at work and suffered from terrible depression as a result. He was very withdrawn from his family and community before he attended our clinics. He’s a different person now and volunteers for the Salvation Army, cooking for the homeless every week.

What skills do people learn when they attend your fishing clinics?

We teach them the practical skills needed to fish, such what equipment they need to use, how to rig their rods, how to fish responsibly and how to treat their catch respectfully. But it’s the emotional and life skills we teach that are critical. Fishing teaching people to be patient, focused, and interested in the world around them and these skills can then be used to transform other parts of their lives.

The wonderful thing about fishing is that when people get hooked, they often want to introduce others to the pastime and the benefits gets passed on to even more people.

How can people get involved in TTTAF?

There are several ways people can get involved. First, we’re always on the look out for volunteers who can help us run our clinics at Frankston Pier. We also need new members to help support the great work we do. So, if you’ve got a bit of time on your hands or a few dollars in your pocket and want to make a difference to someone’s life then get in touch with me.

What are you dreams for the future?

Well, I’d like to start running fishing clinics in a few other Melbourne metro and country areas first and then look at expanding the program nationally. It’s an ambitious vision but I believe the success of our Frankston clinics should inspire others to see how beneficial our fishing program could be to many other vulnerable Victorians. Currently, we rely solely on the generosity of the community, local business and anglers. I’d really love to get some government support so we can take things to the next level.

Do you want to get involved in TTTAF or know someone who could benefit from this program? Then hit up Glenn Cooper for more information.

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