Australian athletes are learning about Indigenous cultures during Reconciliation Week

Olympic race walker Beki Smith is taking part in the program. Source: Instagram/bekismith13

A group of Australian athletes are learning about history and culture from a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory.

Deep in the heart of the Northern Territory’s central desert region sits the town of Arlparra, 200 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

As part of Reconciliation Week (27 May-3 June), the community there have been working on videos to show off their rich Indigenous culture and aspects of their daily life.

They’ve been sharing the videos with 13 Australian athletes as part of the Australian Institute of Sport's ‘Share A Yarn’ program in collaboration with the Wanta Aboriginal Corporation.

“When people can see the athletes learning and understanding about all the unique cultures it helps other people understand and learn the importance of those cultures as well,” said Natasha Bennett, who has helped facilitate the program from Arlparra.

Wanta Aboriginal Corporation
The Wanta Aboriginal Corporation is collaborating with the Australian Institute of Sport on the initiative.

“The culture from this community could be completely different from one just 50 kilometres down the road, from rituals to dialogue.”

“I think it’s important that we showcase these unique cultures and sharing these videos with the athletes is allowing us to do that on a much larger scale.”

Olympic race walker Beki Smith is one of the 13 athletes taking part in the program.

Smith is a Yuin woman and said while growing up she didn’t have a lot to do with her community which comes from the South Coast of New South Wales.

The 33-year-old hopes the program will allow her to connect to her Aboriginal roots while also allowing her to play the role of an ambassador for remote Indigenous communities.

“It’s just so special to be able to be involved in the Indigenous community and culture and learn from our diverse history which is really special,” she said.

Beki Smith
Beki Smith representing Australia in the 2018 Commonwealth Games 20km walk.

“I grew up in Mount Druitt [in Sydney] and unfortunately I haven’t spent a lot of time with my community, just not growing up in that area.”

“It’s really important for me to find my belonging and that’s something I’m really looking to do as an adult, and this program has helped.”

The program was set to take place in person, but strict coronavirus border restrictions have meant the initiative was moved onto an online video platform.

But with restrictions set to ease, athletes are keen to make the journey into Australia’s red centre.

“Hopefully once everything settles down with COVID-19 we can actually get out into their community,” Smith said.

“I’d love it if they can show us a bit more and we can show them a bit more and really learn from each other.”

The inaugural program is set to continue until the end of Reconciliation Week, with the hope for more communities to take part in the future.

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