Fishing lines a lifeline

Glenn Cooper has always been a “mad fisherman” – it was the one thing his otherwise dysfunctional family did together.  Whenever he found himself in a dark place, it brought him relief – and now he’s sharing its benefits with others.

For the past two years, Glenn, his mate Brian Rowley and a group of about 25 volunteers who make up That’s The Thing About Fishing have spent most days sharing their passion for fishing with kids and adults doing it tough.  During school holidays they run clinics for families at no cost.  All the gear has either been donated or bought through Glenn’s disability pension, with only the occasional small grant along the way, but the changes Glenn has seen in people’s lives have made the “long, hard slog” in getting this far worth it.

Before arriving in Frankston in 1985, Glenn’s life was one of family violence, institutions, alcohol and crime.  He found comfort in the church, got married and worked in high management jobs before turning to security work, but in 2006 he was attacked by three drunks and ended up with a severely broken ankle that nine operations couldn’t put right. 

Glenn “lived on nothing” for six months awaiting a disability pension.  His only relief came when his carer dropped him off at Frankston pier, where he’d sit in his wheelchair and fish.  Later he founded Oz Fish TV and hosted a fishing show on RPP FM called That’s The Thing About Fishing With Guru Glenn (he earned the nickname after once catching 33 snapper off Mornington pier).   

“I said to Brian one day, ‘Hey listen, why don’t we do a kids’ fishing clinic?’.  So we did on Frankston pier, but wind was up, it was a shocking day and we had two kids turn up – and one of them was Brian’s son.”

TTTAF has come a long way from that modest beginning.  To date this year it has held almost 300 clinics for more than 3500 people from such organisations as Connecting Skills, HeadSpace, Mental Illness Fellowship, Mentis Assist, Neami Frankston, the Bunjilwarra Koori Youth Alcohol and Drug Healing Service, and disability groups around Melbourne and as far as Gippsland.  Autistic children have shown significant behavioural improvements; men battling depression are getting their lives back on track.

“We’re not saying fishing is the be-all and end-all, but it opens up social skills,” Glenn said.  “Fishing completely changes their lives, one life at a time.”

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