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Government expands football partnership aimed at young Indigenous health

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The health, wellbeing and future prospects for children in remote communities will be winners, through a major extension of the successful John Moriarty Football program to 12 centres across New South Wales and Queensland.

The Federal Government is committing up to $4.5 million for the expansion, to be driven through a partnership between the Football Federation of Australia (FFA) and John Moriarty Football (JMF).

JMF and FFA will work together to provide senior coaching staff, mentoring, training and education for children involved in the program. FFA will also identify and support pathways to national football programs.

“This is a game-changing move for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, designed to help children between two and 16 to reach their full potential in football, in education and in life,” Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said.

“We have seen the success in the remote Northern Territory centres of Borroloola and Robinson River, which have been involved in the program since it was established in 2012, with more than 90 per cent of children in Borroloola now participating.

“Two hundred children have enrolled each year, including Shay Evans who is now playing with the Westfield Young Matildas.

“I congratulate Shay and her fellow JMF scholarship winners, but scores of other participants are also continuing to kick personal and life goals, both on and off the field.”

The JMF program is community driven, with children supported to attend school and make healthier lifestyle choices.

The expanded program will focus on primary health through: 

  • Nutrition programs, with meal plans developed by a sports dietitian;
  • Mental wellbeing, through emotional self-regulation training, with coaches focussing on building resilience;
  • Community cohesion, through gatherings to support tournaments and holiday clinics encouraging community interest and participation; and
  • Parental involvement to enable families to improve health through physical activity. 

JMF Managing Director Ros Moriarty said the Foundation was “extremely grateful” for this “very significant” funding commitment.

“We look forward to replicating our model of football as a powerful tool for wellbeing, supporting resilient, healthier outcomes for young players, their families and communities,” Ms Moriarty said.

NSW and Queensland communities to participate will be selected on the basis of evidence of strong local interest and intention to embrace the program.

“Our game has a deep history of Indigenous participation, and this step will allow us to do so much more to improve health outcomes for Indigenous children,” said Moriarty Foundation Board Member and FFA Board nominee Craig Foster.

“Football has the power to unite the whole community to support opportunity for all young Australians.”

FFA Chief Executive David Gallop said FFA had been a keen supporter of John Moriarty Football for several years.

“Matildas Head Coach Alen Stajcic has visited Borroloola on a number of occasions and scouted Shay Evans back in 2014,” he said.

“This announcement will help achieve our vision of involving more Indigenous Australians in football, as players, coaches, referees and administrators.

“We look forward to working closely with John Moriarty Football to generate significant health and community benefits while offering a pathway for Indigenous footballers to emulate the success of Young Matilda Shay.”

Mr Wyatt said regular sport and physical activity, particularly for young children, has documented and far reaching health benefits.

“It reduces the risk of obesity, increases cardiovascular fitness, promotes healthy growth of bones and muscles, improves coordination and balance, and gives children a greater self-confidence and belief in their abilities, on and off the sporting field,” the Minister said.

“The JMF program has the potential to contribute to Closing the Gap in health equality, education and employment, and positively impact on the high chronic disease prevalence rates among First Nations people.”

The three-year funding will be provided through the Indigenous Australians’ Health Program over 2018–19 and 2020.

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