Surfing trip leads to life-changing experience

Rob Henry is helping displaced indigenous communities in West Sumatra. (Supplied)

A Riddells Creek man who dropped out of the corporate world is urging people to support a program that helps displaced indigenous communities of West Sumatra.

Rob Henry, who quit an advertising job after the global financial crisis of 2008, divides his time between the Macedon Ranges and Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands, where he works to help people deal with shifts in language and cultural traditions due to their resettlement in government-run villages.

‘‘I was working in Melbourne and just got fed up with being part of the rat-race,’’ Mr Henry said. ‘‘It was a nice job, but I didn’t agree so much with the system.

‘‘I thought, by me staying in this role and continuing to develop this way, am I perhaps giving in to that … so I decided to resign.’’

It was actually surfing that took Mr Henry to the Mentawai Islands.

‘‘But once I arrived, I took a real interest in the local people and the culture,’’ he said.

‘‘I was intrigued by their sustainable practices, especially in light of our issues with our economy. I wanted to learn some of those skills and document it.

“It all just sort of evolved from there.’’

Mr Henry was able to study the local language and learn about a tribal community he says is ‘‘really connected to the forest and to their culture’’.

‘‘I really noticed the contrast between the people who had been resettled and those who were still connected,’’ he said.

‘‘The people who were connected to their culture were living self-sufficiently. They were proud … and they were confident. Those who had been resettled were talking about how difficult life was and how hard it was to find money and so on.’’

Mr Henry’s developed a community-based solution, Suku Mentawai, which gives people the chance to learn about their heritage, land and indigenous practices.

In 2014, he launched the Indigenous Education Foundation to attract support for displaced indigenous communities worldwide, and is also working on a feature-length film.

‘‘The program is specific for Mentawai, but the issue is global,’’ Mr Henry said. ‘‘It’s certainly something that our Aboriginal community has faced and, over time, it’s something I’d like to roll out in other places.’’

People can support Mr Henry’s quest during a charity event at 10 Southbourne Road, Riddells Creek, from 1pm this Saturday. Cost: $50. Details: 0413 690 265 or