San Antonio Spurs guard and proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man Patty Mills has announced the formation of his new pathways program last week, an initiative that will focus on engaging and empowering First Nations youth.
Set to launch in 2021, Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA) is part of the NBA star's ongoing commitment to improve the social and economic conditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the continent.
The three-time Olympian said he established IBA to overcome the challenges and barriers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people currently face in basketball systems and structures in Australia by creating pathways and opportunities at the grassroots level.
IBA will offer programs that will include targeted community basketball competitions, national tournaments and development camps. The programs will aim to provide a route for of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players into Australian junior and senior national basketball teams, as well as elite basketball leagues nationally and around the globe.
"We want to be able to get to a stage where this implements and compliments the current system that exists at the moment within Basketball Australia, within the NBL and also the Australian Olympic team as well," Mills told NITV News.
IBA programs would also provide opportunities for developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander basketball coaches, referees, volunteers and supporting organisations in addition to players, said Mills.
"It’s been something in the work for a long, long time, there’s backbones of it coming from the club that I grew up playing in," he said.
"It’s one of those things that we’ve created for the sport of basketball. I think there needs to be a greater influence at that elite level for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but also just to try and make an impact on the main issues in life and try to create a safe environment for our next generation and for our kids."
The programs run by IBA will provide environments free from discrimination and exclusion, said Mills, and will be underpinned by culture, education, and wellbeing by encouraging participants to retain cultural practices, strong cultural identity, and to lead healthy lifestyles.
Mills said the approach improved the chances of young Indigenous players advancing and succeeding on the elite stage.
"So, this is all about creating opportunities and trying to make the most out of the situation that I am in at the moment, I guess," he told NITV News.
"We’re really trying to make an impact here [that] goes beyond basketball."