The need for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island employees in sports industries

January 5, 2021

It’s no secret that I aspire to be the first Aboriginal man from a remote community to coach elite Australian Rules Football. But when I was living out in community, I had no idea of pathways and limited access to opportunities. I didn’t even know this was a dream I was allowed to have. Who was I, some bloke from the heart of the Kimberley, even thinking that I had something to offer to elite sports? I didn’t know what the pathway was or how to even get on it.

Some people in the sports industry grew up around it- going to matches with their families, watching as the coach, umpires, fieldsmen all did their job. Maybe they even yarned a bit to them, did some work experience there while at high school. Maybe they have an uncle that works in the industry. Or an aunt who knows someone to give them a chance in an entry level role. Maybe their career advisor at school was able to explain the process and the steps to take. Maybe they lived near a TAFE or university who stepped out the courses they had to take and how. Young people in remote communities won’t have had that rich immersion in the sports industry. They will have seen it on the TV, maybe if they are lucky travelled to town to see a regional match or had the rare player visit their community for outreach programs (if they were in community at the time it happened once in a blue moon). The remote Aboriginal kid might have a poster of their favourite First Nations sports star. They might have decided they want to play a sport. But that’s probably it. Their mum or dad (if they live with mum or dad) might work in a small Government organisation in town, a station or the local shop but that remote kid probably doesn’t have any role models they know working in the sports industry.

You can see how any pathway in the sports industry isn’t clear like it might be to a kid in the city. But remote Aboriginal people could have great things to offer to your sports organisation:

  • Talented sports players
  • Think outside the box and see issues from a different perspective
  • Have strategies, tactics and skills that are different than what is traditionally used in mainstream sports
  • Culturally aware
  • Driven, persistent and willing to give anything a shot
  • Large networks of First Nations potential players, employees and fans
  • Ability to understand the challenges that remote and rural First Nations and non-Indigenous people face to be involved with sports and are able to think of strategies and ideas for organisation to overcome these challenges.
  • Can be role models and examples of pathways and what can be achieved. Aspire future Aboriginal people to follow in their footsteps.
  • Have experience using their minds and bodies in the bush- hunting, fishing, rodeo, mustering- that require unique skills and abilities such as stamina, persistence, refined fine motor skills, spot the ball amongst a scrum and much more.
  • Often have a unique and fun sense of humour.
  • Team players- used to working together with their cousins and family
  • May have lots of skills, training and talent through working in roles including leadership in their community or region

So for other kids kicking around out bush- they need to know the pathways to not only dream to be players but also that there is a whole industry of jobs that they can do to.

  • Work with First Nations people to establish your Reconciliation Action Plan including employment target.
  • Use your junior and senior pathways as training opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • Create opportunities such as traineeships, fellowships and work shadow opportunities for aspiring First Nations people outside of the player roles.
  • Have training and professional development opportunities available online or in regional hubs for remote First Nations people to attend along with others.
  • Aim to be more culturally aware including the needs of players- and player role models, mentors and supports.
  • Consider mentors for First Nations staff to support them to envision and progress through the career pathways in your organisation
  • Make the pathways into roles in your club clear, transparent, explicit and public. What prior experiences must people applying for the role have done, what training do you recommend, what skills and knowledge? Can you make it even clearer with a path or progression diagram so that each step of the way can be seen and ticked off as the young person progresses through the industry?
  • Actively advertise and recruit in regional and remote Australia
  • Provide a structured orientation program that takes into account the culture shock, homesickness, as well as teaches life in the city ‘basics’ to allow remote staff and players to get accustomed to their new roles.

Want to yarn about sports and reaching out to remote communities? Get in contact.

#Aboriginalequalopportunity #FirstNationsemployment #Aboriginalemployment #Australiansports #AFL #AFLindustry


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