North Esk Dragon Boat president makes state team

Mowbray dragon boat paddler Craig Binns was made to feel at home by the state team on Sunday, despite being the only member from the Launceston region.

The Tasmanian Dragon Boat travelled up from Hobart to complete a training session on the North Esk River to recognise his induction into the squad.


Binns became the first member of North Esk Dragon Boat Club to be selected for state duty in five years, after impressing at the trials in Hobart during November.

He said making it on to the team had been a goal of his for a while.

“I had tried out once before, but couldn’t make the time commitment required for training,” he said.

“I’m pretty stoked to make it this time around.”

The 45-year-old is well known within Launceston’s dragon boating community, having taken over as president of the North Esk club in 2017.

He will head to Queensland next weekend with the rest of the state team for the Australian National Dragon Boat Championships. More than 3000 paddlers will converge on Lake Kawana for the annual event, which is held at a different location each year.


Having competed at the Masters Games at Lake Barrington in October, Binns said he was again looking forward to racing against the country’s best.

“It’s great to just be a part of a competition like this,” he said.

“There is a real sense of camaraderie within the state team, which I enjoy.”


State team coach Donna Fittock said this year’s championships were being held ahead of schedule in order to “showcase the sport of dragon boating to Commonwealth Games officials.”


Northern Tasmanian human rights winners recognised

North Esk Dragon Boat Club’s Craig Binns, Dragons Abreast Club’s Merran Thurley and North Esk Rowing Club’s Judy Fenner won an award.

When Merran Thurley picked up a dragon boat paddle 10 years ago, she had no idea what a difference it would make to her life and for others.

She was recovering from breast cancer when she first started dragon boat racing.

The Dragons Abreast Club president was “quite chuffed” to be recognised alongside the North Esk Rowing Club and North Esk Dragon Boat Club at the Tasmanian Human Rights Awards.

The three clubs won the Robin Hood AM Sport Award for their commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all athletes no matter their personal circumstances or physical abilities.

Ms Thurley aimed to make dragon boat racing as friendly to people of all abilities and make it an enjoyable experience.

While her guide dog Ida usually did not leave her side, Ms Thurley said Ida would be more interested in what was in the water if she tagged along.

Two other Northern Tasmania nominees won their category at the awards, which were celebrated in a ceremony on December 8 at Launceston’s Town Hall.

Speak Out Association of Tasmania won the Organisation Award for its commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of people with intellectual disability and for the development of a dual governance structure ensuring people with disability were active in the organisation.

Former Examiner journalist Piia Wirsu won the Angus Downie Print Journalism Award for her illuminating work Multicultural Faces of Tasmania, which explored the experiences of migration and seeking asylum in Tasmania.

Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Sarah Bolt said more than 30 nominations for individuals and organisations were received again this year. “Each and every one of them has made a significant contribution to the promotion of diversity and the recognition of human rights.”

The awards aimed to celebrate individuals and organisations which addressed issues faced by people with disabilities, migrants, refugees and people subjected to discrimination.


North Esk Dragon Boat Club to hold Movember Come and Try event

Anyone who has ever wanted to paddle with purpose would do well to head down to the North Esk Rowing Club next Tuesday for North Esk Dragon Boat Club’s Movember Come and Try event.

Prospective paddlers aged 12 and over are invited to try the expanding team sport and donate to an important initiative.

PADDLE POWER: Members of DANTI practice on the North Esk River.

Formed in 2012, the North Esk Dragon Boat Club is home to swamp dragon team, as well as Dragons Abreast Northern Tasmania, which recently marked its 10th anniversary within the community.

The club is coming off a spirited performance in last month’s Masters Games at Lake Barrington, where they joined more than 400 competitors from around the country.  Next Tuesday will mark the first time they have held the event to coincide with Movember, which is used raise awareness of men’s health issues.

The Come and Try session will be held from 5pm at the North Esk Rowing Club.

Anyone wanting more information can contact the club at


North Esk Swamp Dragons compete in Masters Games at Lake Barrington

PRIZE PADDLERS: Dragons Abreast Northern Tasmania Inc paddlers train on the North Esk River at the beginning of October. Picture: Paul Scambler.

Dragons Abreast Northern Tasmania have capped off Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a spirited performance at the Masters Games.

Paddlers from the North Esk Dragon Boat club joined more than 400 competitors from around the country at Lake Barrington for the races, which were held throughout Thursday and Friday.

The North Esk Swamp Dragons lined up in three categories, while members of DANTI formed part of a Dragons Abreast North Tasmania team, which took part in a special cancer survivors event. DANTI publicity officer Ros Lewis said while they didn’t walk away with a medal, a good time was had by all.

“It was so well organised and the weather was just perfect,” she said.

Paddlers from the Swamp Dragons not only raced for the North Esk club, but also stepped in to help other teams. Swamp Dragon volunteer Kelly Broomhalll managed to win a medal through drumming for another team and said the competition was highlighted by a friendly atmosphere.

“Everyone was just out there to have fun and cooperate with one another,” she said.

The North Esk Dragonboat Club will hold a Come and Try Day in November, with the exact date to be announced in the coming weeks.


Dragonboat team ready to shine in October

RIVER DRAGON: Sweep Kelly Broomhall and drummer Vicky Whitney with the Dragonboat team.

The tittilator may not be the most obvious choice for a boat name, but for the ladies of Launceston’s Dragons Abreast Northern Tasmania Inc Dragonboat Club, it couldn’t be more suitable.

As a Dragons Abreast Club, the members are all survivors of breast cancer.

Vice president Beth Sowter said they were not the only Dragons Abreast Club to use humor in describing their experience.

“We used to be the Tamar Tittilators and in Devonport, they had Nipples on Ripples,” she said.

“Some people get embarrassed when they hear it, but we actually get a good laugh out of it.

“It’s part of our overall philosophy that there is life after a breast cancer diagnosis.”

Mrs Sowter was one of the original members of DANTI, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

While the club initially comprised of only breast cancer survivors, dwindling numbers meant it was forced to expand in 2012 and allow other paddlers in, bringing about the creation of the North Esk Dragon Boat Club.

Despite the change, Dragons Abreast events are still a central part of the club’s schedule, with paddlers able eligible to participate in ‘pink’ meets across Australia throughout the year.

Mrs Sowter said the club’s unique make up can be difficult to explain.

“We’re a community club that embraces pink,” she said.

“There are two committees, but we all just meet as one.

“We’ve made sure that a survivor has always held the positions of president and treasurer within DANTI.”

TEAM DANTI: The Dragons Abreast Northern Tasmania Inc Dragonboat team trains on the North Esk River.

Dragonboat racing is an aquatic sport involving a 12-metre long canoe-style boat which holds 20 people (two abreast), as well as a sweep to steer the boat and drummer.

We’ve made sure that a survivor has always held the positions of president and treasurer within Danti.

A dragonboat features the head and tail of a dragon, regarded in Chinese mythology as having dominion over the waters and exercising control over rainfall.

It’s link to the rehabilitation of breast cancer patients can be traced back to 1996 when Dr. Don McKenzie developed a program to determine the impact of exercise on survivors.

In choosing dragonboating, the exercise physiologist challenged the widespread medical view that breast cancer survivors should avoid rigorous upper body exercise for fear of developing lymphedema, a debilitating and chronic side effect of treatment.

He trained 24 breast cancer volunteers in a gym for three months, before introducing them to dragonboats and teaching them paddling techniques.

The women not only found themselves to fitter, healthier and happier, but they were also able to feed off the support of their fellow survivors.

They went on to name their team ‘Abreast in a boat’ and eventually invited others to share in their experience.

In Australia, the movement originated when a group of Northern Territory women attended the First National Breast Cancer Conference for Women in 1998.

After hearing a Canadian guest speaker mention how breast cancer survivors paddled dragonboats, Dragons Abreast founder Michelle Hanton returned to Darwin to recruit a group of paddlers.

It has since developed into a national organisation featuring survivors of various ages from a diverse mix of backgrounds.

Mrs Sowter said the spirit of camaraderie within Dragons Abreast was as strong now as it had ever been.

“It’s a very cohesive movement,” she said.

“We’ve got lots of interstate friends now who come and paddle with us if they are visiting.

“The club also attends various regattas around Australia.”

With October marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the club would usually be preparing to host its annual Come and Try Day on the Tamar River.

This year, however, paddlers are heading to Barrington to compete in Over 50s and 60s divisions of the Masters Games.

Held across the weekend of October 26, the event includes race specifically for survivors of cancer.

The timing of the games means the Come and Try Day will now be held in November, with Mrs Sowter encouraging anyone with an interest in paddling to head to the North Esk Rowing Club for what should be a fun day.

“We kit them out in gear and give them about half an hour on river in the boat,” she said.

“There have been quite a few members to come out of Come and Try Days in past, although it has been difficult to retain them.”

For more information, head to

All pictures: Paul Scambler

Light the Night

The support was strong at Seaport on Friday night, as a sizeable crowd gathered for the annual Light the Night event.

Now in its sixth year within Launceston, the national Leukaemia Foundation initiative had one of its biggest turnouts yet, with more than 200 people walking along the Tamar River with lanterns lighting the way.

There was even activity on the water, with dragon boat teams rowing with lanterns to show their support.

Of the three colours of lanterns, gold was given to remember someone who lost their battle, white for those in the midst of their own fight, and blue as a sign of hope and support.

Volunteer Jackie Martin said the impact of blood cancer should never be understated.

“It’s such an insidious disease,” she said.

“There are no triggers, it just is what it is.

“I think Light the Night is a lovely symbolic event, which people always remember.”

This years marks the 30th anniversary of Leukaemia Foundation and the 10th anniversary of Light the Night.

Video: James Burke.

Source: Leukemia Foundation Light the Night Success

Rotary Club Open Day

The Rotary Club held an Open Day on Sunday, September 17, for community services and clubs around Launceston. The North Esk Rowing Club was asked to be involved, who then invited and included the Dragon Boat Club in this event.


Thank you to Ros, who took the reins in this, and to the members who showed up and lent a hand on the day. Ros was instrumental in organising us, and deciding what we should put out on show. There was quite a bit that didn’t make it, however, so we know we can do better if an event like this occurs in the future.

While only a handful of punters came through on the day, Ros had them well in hand, showing them around and telling them about our club. The Rowing Club had also kept the bar open from the “Sunday School” and was serving coffee and slices. Vanessa, the NERC secretary, had prepared a slideshow, including dragon boats, that played through both projectors. While we had input in this, it’s another thing that can be improved for next time!

Birthday Bash 2017

The Birthday Bash, for those who aren’t aware, has become traditional due to the high density of birthdays within the club at this time of year. I won’t list them for fear of forgetting someone! This year it was held at Yacht Club 55. I believe we all enjoyed ourselves, due to the excellent company and great conversation. I heard quite a bit of laughter around the table, anyway!


As I entered, I noticed that the table had been set with party hats and noisemakers – and then the rest of the noisemakers arrived! Fun-loving Beth was the first to put her hat on, of course. I eventually followed suit so as to keep her company, then others joined in.

All in all, the camaraderie was exceptional. Thank you to all who attended, sorry to those who couldn’t, and I hope you can all join us at the next social event on the calendar, the Christmas party and Dragon Petanque Festival – it should be a hoot!

Story: Beth Sowter