A new partnership between two of Australia's most prolific sporting initiatives will provide football opportunities for children with eye and vision problems, currently the most common long-term health conditions experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The program established by John Moriarty Football (JMF) and Australian Blind Football (ABF) will help facilitate education and knowledge to coaches which will allow for children to enjoy the social benefits of the sport.
Yanyuwa man John Moriarty AM, the Co-Founder of JMF and the first Indigenous man to be selected for the Socceroos, claims that the new partnership will be "game changing."
"Improving access to the game of football is paramount to us at JMF," he said.
“Our program is designed to address the barriers of football participation for Aboriginal girls and boys in remote and regional communities, whether they are caused by remoteness, lack of sporting facilities, economic disadvantage, and now, vision. We know that football has the power to unlock the potential of Indigenous children, just as it did for me.”
The JMF program delivers to over 2,000 Indigenous children aged 2 to 18 years across 19 remote and regional communities in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, meaning the merger with ABF will only help continue the development and support of grassroots participation opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.
JMF Tennant Creek Community Coach, Warumungu man Patrick Coleman, says that vision impaired participants like 16-year-old Tarrant Jackson are already reaping the rewards from the program.
"At JMF Tennant Creek, we have two visually impaired young fellas that participate in the program," he said.
Vision impaired JMF participant, Alyawarr boy Tarrant Jackson (16 years), celebrates a goal in Tennant Creek, NT
"When we got the audible footballs from ABF they got really excited and happy. It was a really great feeling to see their reaction because not only could they practice their skills, they could also participate in a fun game with the rest of their peers and to me they looked more confident.”
Upon announcement of the partnership, ABF National Manager Dave Connolly expressed excitement at the program's connection to blind football (B1) already being an internationally recognised sport played at the Paralympics.
"We are extremely excited to be partnering with John Moriarty Football, an organisation with a long standing and successful community football program," he said.
"You never know, we might even discover a future blind footballer to take the field at the Brisbane 2032 Paralympics.”