Tiwi Island Aussie Rules teams with Defence

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ben Willee (author), LEUT Dave Devlin (photographer)

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Topic(s): Australian Rules Football

Private Medic Amber Alexander clears the ball in attack, as Able Seaman Debra Toby of HMAS Hobart provides an effective shepherd. (photo: LEUT Dave Devlin)
Private Medic Amber Alexander clears the ball in attack, as Able Seaman Debra Toby of HMAS Hobart provides an effective shepherd.

Ten talented Aussie Rules players from the Tiwi Islands recently travelled to Victoria for a mentoring opportunity with the Australian Defence Force’s Australian Rules Women’s Indigenous team and competed in the inaugural Victorian Aboriginal Community Services/AFL Victoria’s Koorie Women’s Carnival.

The key objective of the program was to empower young Indigenous women with the skills and experiences they need to pursue their football ambitions and career ambitions. Indigenous members of the Australian Defence Force were also provided with an opportunity to showcase their talents and leadership in an environment that celebrates both their service and their culture.

Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Debra Toby was one of the Defence mentors included in the team.

“It’s good to get involved with Indigenous players and mentor them and help watch them improve and play great footy,” she said.

The program commenced with a camp focussing on team building and learning where the ladies from the north were exposed to Defence life and broader educational opportunities.

Damage control exercises were top of the list, having them take on flood and fire training at the School of Ship Safety and Survivability at HMAS Cerberus.

Tenisha Tipungwuti was on of the participants.

“I really enjoyed the day at HMAS Cerberus it was awesome, even though the water was cold it was a heap of fun,” she said.

“I’m really thankful to the ADF for bringing me down here to play football.”

The culmination of the program was a combined team entry in the Carnival.

Despite not having played together and with the limited training the team performed to a very high standard winning three pool games and a semi-final. Their only loss at the carnival was in the grand final. Results were:

Game 1 ADF 2.5.17 defeated Fitzroy Stars 2.3.15

Game 2 ADF 4.5.29 defeated Mallee Tigers 0.2.2

Game 3 ADF 4.4-28 defeated Gulgurn Manja Gariwerd 0.0.0

Semi Final ADF 8.11.59 defeated Koorie Kurburoos 0.0.0

Grand Final Fitzroy Stars 3.10.28 defeated ADF 3.0.18

Joelle Kantilla said the experience had broadened her horizons. 

“It was a fantastic to play footy on Punt Road and I really enjoyed getting to know and play alongside the Defence girls, they’re really great,” she said.

“I think a career in the ADF would be a good thing.”

The Defence Australian Rules Assistant Chairman - Partner Relations, Brigadier David Smith, said the combined effort with Starwin Social Enterprise aimed to develop the young women from Tiwi Islands.

“By training with the Seahawks and participating in the Koori Carnival, we hope to see these young players realise their potential and, for some, consider a career in Defence and achieve national selection in the AFL Women’s League in the coming years,” Brigadier Smith said.

Australian Defence Force’s Australian Rules Women’s Program Manager and creator of the mentoring program, Lieutenant Colonel Dani Glatz, believes the Guyala Seahawks will also benefit from mentoring the Youth Development Squad.

“We are proud of the influence of Indigenous culture on our sport and we want to recognise how intrinsically linked these two deeply Australian things are,” she said.

“Within the Women’s Program we want to provide the appropriate platform to highlight the resilience and pride of our Iindigenous women because we believe they are exceptional role models for all young women – but especially for young Indigenous women who are looking towards the future while still being proud of their cultural history.”