Belmont Lions sports club in Geelong are hosting state wide junior football and netball carnival in conjunction with Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited (VACSAL) and Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative.
Laura Morelli

21 Sep 2016 - 5:47 PM  UPDATED 21 Sep 2016 - 5:47 PM

It’s the first time this annual event has been held in the southern parts of Victoria. Professional Indigenous footy player Lochie Edwards approached the Belmont Lions in regards to hosting the event because the company has very strong connections with the Wathaurong people and also have several Indigenous members playing in the club.

A variety of Indigenous communities from all across Victoria will be versing each other to win the top trophy over the course of two days. There are teams ranging from under 12s all the way to under 17s playing a mixture of both Netball and Aussie-Rules. 

Vice-President of the Belmont Lions Sports Club Brendan Smith says it’s important that Indigenous youth meet and compete.

“We think it’s fantastic to have it down in this part of the world. We are honored to be able to host it for them given our extensive association with the Wathaurong people,” he said.

“It allows Indigenous youth to actively participate in competitions against one another and having them all come together in the same place at the same time to see the different abilities from around the state is just fantastic.”

Community development officer at the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited Les Bamblett says the most important thing is that Indigenous children participate.

“It’s about participation for us… giving kids a chance to come out and represent their communities. It’s giving a chance for our kids to showcase their talent and work together in a team environment,” he said.

“We think it’s important to hold events like this around all types of communities, we’ve got over 65 teams participating and it gives everyone a chance to get around and it also gives the local mob a chance to showcase their own town and their community.”

Mr Bamblett says for some children, this is the first time they’ve left their home town.

“We bring a lot of kids down to participate but to also get them out of their town for a couple of days. Some kids struggle so this is a way for them to mingle with other communities and make new friends from the same cultural heritage.”

“It’s a real community event and it brings everyone together.”

15-year-old Blake Schlensog from Geelong loves playing football and one day aspires to play professionally.

He says the best thing about this event is that he can meet people who share the same culture and traditions he does.   

“It’s been really good, playing all the other boys is great, they’re a good competition and there’s really good talent out here,” he said.

“It’s great to be able to get to know other boys in Victoria with the same culture as you and we’ve been able to meet their family and relatives.”

The Year Ten student says that although this competition is filled with Aboriginal players, there needs to be a much bigger focus on professional Indigenous sports stars.

“I think we need to see more Indigenous sports stars especially AFL players so us young boys can have more role models to look up to and get help from.”

“It makes them more proud of where they come from, when they’re around people who are just like them.”

17-year-old Kiai Graham is from Melbourne and has thought about becoming a professional Netball player and says these sport events are a great way to mingle with Aboriginal community members.

“Events like this bring the community together and it’s a great way to have people connect with each other from across Victoria.”

“I look forward to doing this again next year, these people are my family so it’s great to be able to connect with them.”

Ms Graham says this event is a great way for Aboriginal people to share their stories.

“There are lots of people here who are Indigenous, but they’re from small towns, so they aren’t fully aware of their culture and heritage… It’s not until when they come to big events like these that they’re able to meet similar people and learn more about themselves and their culture.”

“It makes them more proud of where they come from, when they’re around people who are just like them.”

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