How a small Tasmanian town uses boxing to strengthen community

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Dunalley Neighbourhood House flourishes following 2013 fires
Back Roads

By Marc Eiden and Damien Peck


December 04, 2017 06:54:26

Video: Boxing helps Dunalley rebuild lives after the 2013 bushfires

(ABC News)
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(ABC Back Roads: Marc Eiden)
After losing his house and all his family possessions in the 2013 bushfires that caused widespread devastation in Dunalley, Mr Griffiths built his gym on the same spot where his house once stood.Starting with a few local youths, he has created a nurturing and empowering culture where young and old members are supported and encouraged.”I just built it to give something to the kids in the community to do, and [to] learn about fitness and self defence and what the attributes of boxing gives you,” Mr Griffiths said.The boxing club is now the go-to place after school or work, with some members travelling more than an hour and a half to attend training.”I think it’s giving them the power to change their life, not someone telling them what to do, not ‘You’ve got to do this’ or their parents saying ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to change’,” he said. (ABC Back Roads: Marc Eiden)
Mr Panton’s transformation into a competitive boxer is just one example of the relationships Mr Griffiths has built with the Dunalley community in the past five years.”I don’t know if he thought it would ever get this big but it has and it’s great to see,” Mr Panton said.Watch Back Roads on ABC TV 8pm MondayPast episodes or extras are on iView or at

#BackRoadsHeather Ewart returns to the Back Roads of Australia, to discover more resilient country towns and the inspiring people who live in them. (ABC Back Roads: Marc Eiden)
The hook: Cruisin’ for a bruisin’Assistant coach Karen Jackson, who is ranked number two in the cruiserweight category in Australia, also lost everything in the bushfires.”I started getting really anxious and upset about things and I heard about the boxing gym, and I thought what a great way to vent some of that anger,” Ms Jackson said.She is now training the next generation of South East Boxing Gym members, which she said was the next best thing to competitive fighting.”The gym’s definitely an outlet and it’s somewhere to go when I need to get away. (ABC Back Roads: Marc Eiden)
“And ever since now, I’ve lost a bit of anger and yeah, it’s good to see I’m taking it out in the gym instead of on my life.”Pretty much every day I’ll wake up and I’ll have a hundred things going through my mind.”One way to change that is to come to the gym and I sort of get it all out.”With two wins and two losses under his belt, and recovering from a knee injury, Mr Panton is eager to get back in the ring and has his sights set on winning the featherweight Tasmanian title.”I always loved to feel like I belong somewhere and this is pretty much the only spot where I feel like I belong,” he said. It’s my timeout,” she said. Photo:
Jaidyn Panton says he is now focused on winning the featherweight Tasmanian title. (ABC Back Roads: Marc Eiden)
Anger paves way for beginningsFor 19-year-old local Jaidyn Panton, learning to box and being part of the club has been a transformative experience, something Mr Griffiths witnessed first-hand.”He’s come along really great as a person, and I see that anger drifting away and being a more focused person and focused on his future more,” he said.Mr Panton used that anger as motivation to create an opportunity to change his life.”Before I came to the gym I had a lot of anger built up, sort of through what’s happened in my life and choosing the wrong paths,” Mr Panton said. (ABC Back Roads: Marc Eiden)
Rising from the ashes, accolades repay the faithMr Panton said he was lucky to have the opportunity to live so close to a boxing gym, having met Mr Griffiths five years ago. Photo:
Kane Seabourne is one of many local children training in the Dunalley gym. On any given night in the small coastal town of Dunalley, in south-east Tasmania, groups of young people can be seen running up and down the main street.They are the members of the South East Boxing Club, a small community gym in Dunalley owned by former boxer and club coach Scott Griffiths. Photo:
Jaidyn Panton (L), Jack Griffiths (C) and Kobey Hassett chill out after training. Photo:
Boxers among the Dunalley community leave their trophies they have won on the gym’s shelf to honour their coach. He’s my father figure pretty much,” Mr Panton said.”I’ve got lots of love and support behind me to help me grow further and it’s pretty much the only place I want to be.”Winning is not everything at this club, but those who do bring home a trophy leave it on the club’s shelf as a sign of respect to Mr Griffiths, who lost all of his boxing trophies in the fires.”The fires went through and Griffo’s lost his house and all his belongings and pretty much everything that he owned,” Mr Panton said.”The boxers are more than happy to take them home but the majority of us leave them up there just to show a bit of initiative and a bit of appreciation to everything he’s done for us.”

The Dunalley boxing community is a tight-knit group from a range of ages. Photo:
Coach Scott Griffiths built the gym where he lost his home in the 2013 bushfires. Photo:
Karen Jackson uses boxing as an outlet, which she says is the next best thing to competitive fighting. (ABC Back Roads: Marc Eiden)
“He’s helped me pretty much through thick and thin. She meets communities whose good humour and inventiveness will inspire and uplift.
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