New nippers program making waves for Charlee

Charlie Kuenen (9). Picture: Andrew Ritchie d495930
Charlie Kuenen (9). Picture: Andrew Ritchie d495930

CHARLEE Kuenen no longer has to watch from the sidelines thanks to the launch of a specialised surf lifesaving program in Scarborough.

The Scarborough nine-year-old is the first child signed up to Scarboro Surf Life Saving Club’s Starfish Nippers program, which provides surf awareness skills to children aged five to 12 with special needs.

Charlee’s sister is already part of the club and her mother Shanae said she had tried to find a program for Charlee a couple of years ago but there was nothing suitable.

“It’d been on my radar, but I’d given up,” she said.

“In the past she couldn’t understand why she couldn’t participate like her sister.”

Ms Kuenen said she was “so excited” when she found out about the Starfish program, where participants would have one-to-one support via water safety officers trained in working with children with special needs on the beach.

Charlie Kuenen (9), is the first person enrolled in Scarboro SLSC”s Starfish Nipper program. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

“It gives us the opportunity for Charlee to enjoy the surf,” she said.

“It allows her to participate like her sister.

“She just loves being part of what her friends are doing. She loves being part of a team.”

Organiser Alexandria Nielsen said the program would cater to children living with disabilities from around Perth.

“The aim of the program is to create a more inclusive community for all children to be able to enjoy the experience of surf lifesaving,” she said.

Enrolments are open for the 10-week program, which starts on January 5, and an induction day for children to meet with the trainers will run on December 15 from 10am.

To enrol or more information, email