(L-R): Prison Director Tayla Yandall, UCOL Tutor Loni Viliami, Sir Graham Lowe, Corrections Officers Martha George-Crichton and Pare Haimona. "The ‘Kick for the Seagulls’ programme is about pushing the right buttons to get the best out of people,” says legendary former rugby league coach and founder of the Lowie Foundation and ‘Kick for the Seagulls’ programme, Sir Graham Lowe.

Sir Graham was addressing the first five graduates of the inaugural Kick for the Seagulls course at Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility (ARWCF), the first of the women’s prisons to run the programme.

“You ladies have made me as proud today as the day in 1988 when Wigan [coached by Sir Graham] reached Wembley and we won the Challenge Cup. As I sat there, the entire crowd of roughly 100,000 started singing and the atmosphere was unbelievable. But, more than that, I felt indescribable pride, honour, and privilege, and that is exactly how I feel today about your achievement.”

Sir Graham shared with the audience a fragment of his life history, which played a key role in the unfolding of his coaching career success and the birth of ‘Kick for the Seagulls’.

“Even though I struggled academically at school, I discovered through my coaching of boys and rugby league players later, that if I really connected with them, spoke their language as it were and understood what makes each one tick, we would get somewhere. The language of sport is a powerful connector and I have used all my coaching experience to develop ‘Kick for the Seagulls’, which helps people to see things differently through the 12 principles of the programme,” says Sir Graham.

The 17-week course, first delivered in 2017 at Auckland South Corrections Facility (ASCF) and from 2018 at some Corrections prisons, has produced approximately 1,000 male graduates to date, plus the first five women from ARWCF recently.

Last year, Ara Poutama Aotearoa and the Lowie Foundation signed a new partnership agreement, which formalised a joint commitment to successfully run and expand ‘Kick for the Seagulls’ in the Department’s prisons.

The ‘Kick for the Seagulls’ programme is taught by facilitators from Universal College of Learning (UCOL) based in Palmerston North. The course uses the language of sport in an easily relatable way to teach literacy and numeracy skills, as well as general life skills and wellbeing through the programme’s 12 dynamic principles.

The principles are “common-sense philosophies”, which Sir Graham has developed throughout his career as a sporting coach, such as “practice till the lights go out”, “never die wondering”, and “discover the power of your team early”.

Sir Graham reminded the women that graduating from the course was only the beginning of their journey of change and building on their potential.

“Thanks to UCOL Tutor Loni Viliami and the Department of Corrections, as well as ARWCF and its supportive staff, you have been given a golden opportunity; use it well.

“Today’s graduation must encourage you to continue applying the principles and values you have learned to become the leaders you can be. You can pave the way for others to follow in your footsteps. And remember, along with hundreds of rugby league players coached by me, you are now part of Team Lowie, for the rest of your lives,” says Sir Graham.