Craig Foster: Investing in Aboriginal youth will pay huge dividends

We can be pleased about the growth in our football but there is still one glaring aspect of the game in Australia that needs urgent attention: helping indigenous Australia discover a lifelong relationship with the game.
Nanjing Night Net

Football is a gate to the world, and we owe it to Aboriginal youth to give them the opportunity to follow the same path of John Moriarty, Harry Williams, Charles Perkins, Travis Odd, Jade North and the talented Sam Kerr and Kyah Simon.

This is our responsibility, just as we all share a responsibility to create better educational, health and life outcomes for indigenous Australia. Their plight is, without any shadow of a doubt, our national disgrace and we are not a wholly civilised nation until we rectify these wrongs.

We spend billions on different infrastructure and programs, yet can’t solve basic problems to give our first Australians the most fundamental rights that every human being around the world can expect.

A rich and prosperous country, yes, but one without a complete soul until we effectively spend what we need, and commit what we must, to save our own people from a life none of us would accept for our own children. Not one of us.

I would move heaven and earth to provide for my three beautiful kids, as would you, so how can we stand by and let Aboriginal kids face a life without education, without the necessary medical care we take for granted, and with little hope to reverse the cycle?

And with the power of football and its extraordinary impact on indigenous people’s worldwide, it is our community that must be at the forefront of making this change happen.

Yet, there is too little urgency, and we are all culpable.

For years now, there has been a plan – at least two in the last five years – rehashed and filed, but still nothing tangible has resulted.

There may be an annual tournament as talent identification, but that misses the point. The fact that Aboriginal kids possess phenomenal dexterity and aptitude for the world game is merely secondary; our responsibility is not just to find and develop talent but to help.

To help by putting the same programs into place in every indigenous community that give our kids the chance to finish their schooling and experience the great world of football beyond their home.

As yet, we have not done enough, any of us. The game has other problems needing to be fixed, but what takes precedence over the right to a free life for one’s children?

Our national indigenous patron of football, John Moriarty, has sowed the first, meaningful seeds in Borroloola for a three-day camp where over 50 kids train three days a week – just like any kids their age, anywhere in the world – and focus on their studies. A double way out, and it’s working wonders.

Oh, boy, how it’s working.

To see the kids run and turn, dribble and pass, shoot and feint is to see skills, the sort of ball skills these kids are uniquely capable of but, more than this, it is to see joy.

The joy of achievement, both in school and in the field.

And now John’s foundation, managed by his merchant banker son, James, once managing money and now aspirations, has expanded to nearby communities in the Northern Territory.

Slowly, slowly is the mantra. Do it once, and do it right. Start small and grow, like John: starting with his Yanyawa people, he connected with the Gadanji tribe, then the Mara, and so it goes.

Things can’t be rushed, they need care and love, patience and dedication. No fly in, fly out here, but stable care and guidance.

There’s a revolution – not just in football, but in life outcomes happening in Borroloola; the start of a glorious future.

Study, play, train, achieve, and the kids are passionate about what they do, with great dreams of conquering the world. They look to their heroes in the A-League and W-League, to the Socceroos and Matilda’s with Jade and Kyah, to the great clubs of the world and dream. If I study and keep my grades up, and train hard and am committed to learning, and behave with respect and fairness as my heritage and Jumbana, the elder who played for Adelaide City demands, I might one day have a chance to be a champion.

A champion of the world, no less.

You have heard me say before, and I’ll do so again, Australia will one day succeed in football, but not before we have embraced our brothers and sisters who were here before us for 50,000 years, and it is they who will become our best. One day, it might be 50 or 100 years, an indigenous Australian will win the Ballon d’Or.

Madness? Perhaps. But every man is mad until proven right.

The John Moriarty Football Foundation has gone ahead and done what others failed to do, and the program has laid down roots that are strong and are starting to shoot.

Football has waited too long to give the gift of our game, and we can wait no longer.

I believe we should all come together to make a life-changing statement, for all of us to contribute so that, through John Moriarty and his wonderful program, we can change the future and leave a legacy for coming generations.

It would be something for us all to be proud of that, once and for all, we stood up and made the difference needing to be made, and changed this county for the better.

In the next World Cup year, we will organise a campaign to expand into dozens of communities and change the game, literally.

We can stand around calling for FFA to find the money, for the government to fund, for others to make something happen, or we can damn well do it ourselves. Football is one of the largest constituencies in this country, and we span every age, religion, race, colour, demographic, political persuasion and belief system, but what binds us together is the ball.

Will you join me in giving the gift of football to our indigenous brothers and sisters?

I reckon it’s time, in fact, long overdue. I hope you agree, so be ready for the call in 2014.

Twitter [email protected]_Foster

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation