Celebrating International Women’s Day – Rachael Parker

Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, the Geelong Community Foundation is shining a light on some of the incredible women who are driving change and making a difference in the community sector, with women making up around 81% of the community sector workforce in Victoria.


Rachael Parker - February 2023

Meet Rachael Parker, founder and CEO at Ocean Mind

As the CEO of Ocean Mind Surf Therapy program, my daily responsibilities involve overseeing the operations of the organisation and ensuring that our mission is being carried out effectively. This includes managing our team of surf instructors, working with partner organisations, fundraising, and marketing our program to reach more individuals who could benefit from it.

On a daily basis, our team works to provide surf therapy sessions for participants experiencing mental health challenges, social isolation and disabilities. We provide therapy sessions and support groups, to ensure that participants receive a well-rounded and holistic experience.

In addition to the daily operations, we are constantly exploring new and innovative ways to improve our program and better serve our participants. This includes researching new techniques for surf therapy, developing new partnerships with other organisations in the community, and exploring new fundraising opportunities.

Can you share your organisation vision, mission and purpose?

Vision: to enrich young people’s mental health, relationships and potential through surfing.

Mission: Ocean Mind aims to create a supportive environment for young people to realise their potential; build self-efficacy, resilience and confidence. By harnessing the energy of nature, young people will be challenged, developing positive lifelong skills and learning helpful behaviours. Young people will discover who they are and what they can achieve in a ‘SAFE SPACE’.

Impact: improved the wellbeing of young people by developing life skills and the ability to create beneficial relationships, whilst increasing the capacity of the community to support young people’s mental health.

What is the most significant highlight of your time in the role?

The impact of the Ocean Mind surf therapy program on Joe’s life was significant and far-reaching. Before joining the program, Joe had struggled with anxiety and found it difficult to socialise and make friends. However, through the support of his mentor and the other participants, he was able to overcome his fears and connect with others in a way that he had never experienced before.

As Joe progressed through the program, he developed a sense of confidence and self-esteem that he had never known. He discovered a new passion for surfing and was able to challenge his negative self-beliefs by taking on new and exciting challenges.

What is your hope for the future of your organisation, and the wider Geelong community?

My hope for the Greater Geelong region is that it continues to thrive and flourish. This includes fostering a community that collaborates to achieve the best outcomes for all individuals, providing opportunities for success, and offering support during challenging times.

As the population continues to grow, many individuals are unable to access necessary services and support. Thus, I envision a future Geelong that addresses these issues and ensures that all communities prosper.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

International Women’s Day is a significant event commemorating women’s accomplishments in various areas, including social, economic, cultural, and political fields. It is a reminder that gender inequality remains a pervasive issue in many societies and that there is still work to be done to achieve greater gender parity.

The day highlights the importance of acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of women while advocating for gender equality, creating opportunities for women to reach their full potential and contribute to a better world.

Do you have any advice for other/younger women, wither in general or with regards to working in the community/NFP Sector?

Have faith in yourself and your vision/goals. Be willing to work hard and persevere in the face of obstacles.