Kiwis keen to net change

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Peter SweeneyGeraldton Guardian
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New Zealander friends Ike Smith and James Paringatai are having a ball and making a difference in their adopted home of Geraldton.
Camera IconNew Zealander friends Ike Smith and James Paringatai are having a ball and making a difference in their adopted home of Geraldton. Credit: Arctic Moon Photography

New Zealanders James Paringatai and Ike Smith crossed paths when they played basketball in their homeland years ago.

However, little else but pleasantries were exchanged as they suited up for different teams.

One came to Geraldton, then the other, but neither knew it. Then they reconnected through mutual friends.

They had been thinking, and they got talking about how their favourite sport could give youngsters, particularly young indigenous people, better lives.

They are dreaming of a long-range goal: a basketball academy for teenagers. More importantly, they want to improve the lifestyles of teenagers.

“I saw as a kid what effect drugs and violence can have,” Smith, a fly-in, fly-out worker, said.

“After we met again and realised we shared many thoughts, James and I brainstormed plans. We shared many of the same ideas.”

Now the pair are putting some of them into practice. Recently, a four-day carnival was held at the Activewest Stadium, supported, among others, by the Geraldton Sporting Aboriginal Corporation, the WA Centre for Rural Health and MEEDAC.

“We are looking at developing a pathway for indigenous kids through basketball, as so many of them play it,” Lenny Papertalk, of the WA Centre for Rural Health, said.

“Part of the program involves better behaviour in and out of school.”

Paringatai said youngsters needed to be shown they could make changes for the better in their lives, and in the lives of others.

“We want to give hope to young people, to show them how to make positive changes,” he said.

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