Located more than 2000 kilometres north of Perth and roughly three hours east of Broome sits the small Aboriginal community of Looma, a remote community that is the home town for one of the most dominating football teams in Western Australia.
Three years ago the Looma Eagles introduced their new women’s team and in the past few years, the women have taken home 2 out of 3 of the premierships for the West Kimberley Football league, making them the top women’s football league in the region.
Walmajarri/ Nyikina woman Antonia Pindan is the manager for the Looma Eagles and she told NITV’s The Point that the local women look forward to playing every year.
“Playing footy just means everything, Looma has always had a big focus on footy, growing up we always had supported the men’s and now we’ve got a woman’s footy team,” says Ms Pindan.
“Playing footy makes me feel good, it makes me keep healthy, fit, mentally and physically, and especially running out on game day with the people you grew up with, I’m playing footy with my sisters and it makes it even more special,” she says.
With a population of approximately 400 people, Looma's women's and men’s football teams rely on the community corporation to sponsor the teams, but community members also rally around players and provide support in their own way.
“Everyone in the community is really supportive, when we play football they drive in and support us and some of them travel 2 hours to come and support us,” says Ms Pindan.
And the men’s team also supports the Looma ladies. Since the introduction of the women’s team, the community has seen a lot of changes and the women and men train together every week.
Mangala man Lewis Bloom, who was once recruited to the West Coast Eagles, is now back home in Looma playing in the forward line for the men’s team.
“The community changed a lot with the girls being here, everyone all happy, on Saturday we get everyone down and everyone’s just happy that the girls have joined the league,” Mr Bloom tells NITV’s The Point.
According to team manager Antonia Pindan, football has many benefits for the women in Looma.
“We have different women in our team and football affects them in different ways we got some girls like I said domestic violence, some are shy, some had their babies young and they got nothing to look forward to and they just think ‘oh I’ll be a mum,' you know,” says Ms Pindan.
“[But] you can do more than that, you can play football and give them something to call our own."
Football is also helping heal the community and its players.
In March 2016, Looma was rocked by the suicide of a 10-year-old girl. The girl's death, along with those of 12 other children and teenagers across the Kimberley, formed the basis for a 2017 coronial inquest into suicides of young people in the region.
In the Kimberley, the rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is are three times the national Indigenous suicide rate.
Many Looma players told NITV’s The Point that football continues to save their lives.
“Footy helps with the mental side because it keeps them busy and occupied, especially living in remote communities, there isn't much for us to do out here and during the footy season everyone’s out and about an all active and during off-season everyone’s at home and you hardly see them in our community,” says Ms Pindan.
- For more, watch The Point, Wednesdays 8.30pm on NITV (Ch34)