The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) has launched a new campaign alongside 14 athlete ambassadors from Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural understanding in sport.
With the aim of building more meaningful connections between sports and the relevant communities, this year’s Share a Yarn Program will see First Nations and non-Indigenous athletes chosen as ambassadors to undertake cultural training and activities side-by-side, supporting each other to foster reconciliation and improve cultural competency within their own sports.
Australian Matildas football representative Kyah Simon recalls playing at the 2015 FIFA World Cup and locating her family in the stands by looking for the Aboriginal flag.
“As a nine-year-old in my home family lounge-room, that was a real moment that sparked the fire in my belly to want to emulate as much – or half as much – as what she’d done,” Kyah says.
She’s the first Australian Indigenous player to score a goal in a FIFA World Cup.
“Every time I wear the green and gold I’m thinking of my culture and my people and the thousands of Aboriginal girls that might be watching that and need a moment of inspiration.”
The Australian women’s softball team has been at the AIS on a pre-Olympic camp and as part of Share a Yarn activities Janice Blackman invited her teammates to be part of a Walk on Country, on traditional Ngunnawal land. Blackman is one of three Aboriginal players in the Australian Softball team and spoke of the powerful moment the team asked them to present an Indigenous-designed jersey to their teammates.
“It’s a really awful feeling when you feel out of place in your own country, but when you’re essentially playing for your country,” Janice says. She’s from the Gubbi Gubbi and Badtjala Tribes, in the Sunshine Coast region of Queensland.
“[Presenting those jerseys] is probably the best feeling I’ve ever had being in this team. I know the girls probably think it’s something very small, but to me it’s massive … I feel just so settled, so free and I just feel like I belong.”
The Share a Yarn athlete ambassadors are:
- Janice Blackman: Softball, Queensland Academy of Sport
- Gabrielle Coffey: Netball, Victorian Institute of Sport
- Rhydian Cowley: Athletics, Victorian Institute of Sport
- Sarah Gigante: Cycling, Victorian Institute of Sport Alumni
- Chris McHugh: Beach Volleyball, South Australian Sports Institute
- Jonty O’Callaghan: Snow Australia, Victorian Institute of Sport, Paralympics Australia
- Amy Ridge: Water Polo, NSW Institute of Sport
- Renee Rockliff: Hockey, Western Australian Institute of Sport
- Caitlin Sargent: Athletics, Queensland Academy of Sport
- Brad Scott: Para-Athletics, Western Australian Institute of Sport, Paralympics Australia,
- Kyah Simon: Football, NSW Institute of Sport
- Mariah Williams: Hockey, NSW Institute of Sport
- Michelle Wilson: Karate, South Australian Sports Institute
- Alex Winwood: Boxing, Western Australian Institute of Sport