Indigenous football and netball carnival in Bendigo for second year

ONE of the state’s biggest Indigenous sporting events will kick off in Bendigo on Saturday for the second year running.

Up to 5000 people are expected gather at Epsom Huntly Recreation Reserve over the weekend for a football and netball carnival hosted by the Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation.

“It’s great to see everyone come together from across the state,” Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation board member Nikita Charles said.

Forty-three netball teams and 23 football teams from across the state have signed up for the event, as well as two AFL 9s women’s teams for an exhibition game run by former Brisbane Lions player Chris Johnson.

About 10 former AFL stars are expected to play in some of the teams during the carnival, which kicks off this morning and finishes up tomorrow afternoon.

Some players have even come from interstate to compete.

The senior Indigenous football and netball carnival, an initiative of Victorian Aboriginal Youth Sport and Recreation, had been held in towns across Victoria for about 30 years until funding for the event dried up in recent years.

BDAC chief executive officer Raylene Harradine said it had then been absent from the calendar for three years before the statewide NAIDOC committee came together and revived the event to provide an occasion for Victoria’s Aboriginal community to gather.

While the event had never been held in Bendigo before, Ms Harradine said the organisation put its hand up to host it last year and garnered the support of the City of Greater Bendigo to secure the location.

It was again selected to put on this year’s event and Ms Harradine is hopeful this year’s carnival will be even more successful than the last, now organisers have some experience under their belts.

While the carnival is primarily for Aboriginal people, each team is permitted to field two non-Indigenous players to foster inclusiveness within the community.

Ms Harradine also invited non-Indigenous people to come along, cheer on the teams and participate in the fun.

Footballer David Williams said the social aspect of the carnival was something he was looking forward to most.

“It’s cool getting a big mob together, it’s just like a big gathering,” he said.

Fellow footballer Tyson Murphy also said he enjoyed being around everyone and the “good-hearted competition”.

Local netball players Rhoda Morgan and Teri Boyd said they were both excited about the carnival, Miss Morgan adding that she felt positive about her team’s chances.

It is not only sport on offer during the carnival – there will also be activities for kids and an Indigenous hip hop performance, among other health promotion and cultural activities.

Victorian Aboriginal affairs minister Natalie Hutchins will attend to make an announcement regarding self-determination.

Health promotion key to event

ONE of the major focuses of the large Indigenous football and netball carnival being held in Bendigo this weekend is the promotion of healthy living in Victoria’s Aboriginal community.

The theme of the carnival, Murrun Dhelk, means ‘living good health’ in the language of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, the traditional owners of the land.

Bendigo and District Aboriginal Co-operative chief executive officer Raylene Harradine said the carnival was about building healthy communities and leading by example for young people, giving them healthy, active role models to which they could aspire.

There will be stalls at the event with information on how to keep healthy and Specky Dreaming, a health promotion organisation that uses sport to educate young people on making good life choices, will also be running a program.

Ms Harradine said smoking was among the issues that would be targeted during the carnival because of its detrimental impact on health, contributing to such ailments as heart disease and cancer.

The proportion of Indigenous people who smoke daily in Australia is significantly higher than that of the non-Indigenous population, and in 2012-13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were twice as likely to be hospitalised for cardiovascular disease as non-Indigenous people.

The health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are generally poorer than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

But it is not only physical health the carnival aims to promote – Ms Harradine says they take a holistic approach to health and the event also incorporates mental and emotional health.

Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation administration officer Hannah Dunnolly-Lee said the vehicle of sport represented “healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit”.

One of the most important aspects of the carnival to organisers and participants alike is the sense of community and gathering it promotes.

Ms Harradine said gatherings were culturally important for Aboriginal people, being something their ancestors had also done.

Events like this, where young people could meet with family and friends, reinforced their strength in their culture.

“If people don’t know their culture, they end up in the criminal justice system,” Ms Harradine said.

Miss Dunnolly-Lee said getting together with the community, particularly around sport, was “very significant” for the Aboriginal community and there was a deep and long-running affinity with football in particular for many people.