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Western Sydney doctor to sail 15,000km solo to close indigenous literacy gap

Andrew Brazier

Dr Andrew Brazier: “I’m aiming for the stars to reach many Indigenous, but even if a few street kids learn to read, I’ll be a happy man.” Photo: Supplied.

BOOKS are said to open doors to the world and the saying is especially true for self-taught sailor Andrew Brazier.

The junior doctor, who studied at the University of Queensland, pursued sailing after reading the autobiography of Joshua Slocum, the first man to single-handedly sail around the world, and is now planning a solo voyage across the Pacific Ocean to open doors for indigenous Australians.

The former Brisbane Catholic will make a 15,000km solo trip from Sydney to Los Angeles to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, an organisation that puts books in the hands of indigenous children.

He said he knew first hand that learning to read could save an indigenous person’s life.

During his time as a resident doctor at Nepean hospital, in the Blue Mountains, he has treated indigenous patients who, because they couldn’t read, would need to go on dialysis for kidney failure.

“These are people who are on drugs for diabetes but, because they can’t read the instructions for their pills, find themselves in hospital in a worse situation,” Dr Brazier said.

According to the ILF, only 34 per cent of indigenous Year 5 students in far-remote areas of Australia reach the minimum reading standards, compared with 95 per cent of non-indigenous students in metropolitan cities.

The ILF also reported that indigenous families it supported had less than five books in their homes.

“If I can, at the end of it, know that even an indigenous street kid has learnt to read and is inspired to dream from books like I did, it would have been a cause well worth pursuing,” Dr Brazier said.

“I’m aiming for the stars to reach many indigenous, but even if a few street kids learn to read, I’ll be a happy man.”

He hopes his voyage will allow young indigenous Australians to dream like he did as an eight-year-old reading about the first man to circumnavigate the world alone.

After reading about Slocum’s life, Dr Brazier said he started reading “every book I could find” on sailing, and eventually bought his own boat.

After watching several YouTube videos, he took to the water for the first time, having not had even one lesson.

“I had no idea what would happen,” Dr Brazier said.

“I gain experience by learning from my mistakes … but I have never been on a boat with someone more experienced than me.”

For his solo journey, he will set sail in a 10m sloop he has renamed Perpetual Succour, armed with just enough dried and tinned food to last three months, and his Rosary beads.

He is expecting his solo trip to be “a three-month retreat” similar to the life of a hermit.

“From a religious perspective, it’s a three-month retreat for me,” Dr Brazier said.

“Unfortunately I can’t have Mass on the trip but I’ll be praying the daily Rosary.

“It’s a case of relying on God’s grace rather than to rely on me.”

Dr Brazier will have his boat blessed by a Sydney priest before raising the sails in mid-February.

He hopes his family will be waiting for him with a cold beer when he docks on the other side of the world.

“Ultimately this trip means going for a day sail; I just have to do that around 18,000 times,” he said.

“I’ll take it each step at a time.”

He hopes those inspired by his trip will donate to his fundraising page, which attracted $4000 in donations in the first two weeks since going live.

Follow the journey at aloneinthepacific.com.or visit the official fundraising page to make a donation.

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