Arnhem Land kids love sports

Arnhem Land kids love sports

If it’s not AFL (Australian Football), it’s basketball. If it’s not basketball it’s volleyball. If it’s not volleyball it’s running... Aboriginal kids love sports! Story by Peter Higham

Any opportunity indigenous kids are given to kick or run with a ball, they jump at it with beaming smiles!

A love of sports has opened the doors for many young Aboriginal people to pursue careers in various AFL and other sports programmes throughout the country. 

Schools in East Arnhem Land especially recognise the potential in many Aboriginal kids and seek to develop this with events to encourage emerging talent.

These events do more than just encourage the youth, they keep young kids busy and off the streets where trouble is often just waiting for them.

MAF has carried out a huge number of education related flights over many years in Arnhem Land, transporting teachers, students and supplies from one community to another. MAF make these flights a priority.

So when the Operations Office in Gove got notice of a big sports carnival taking place in Yirrkala, between the 19th and 22nd of June, the schedule was blocked out in anticipation for an influx of kids from the remote communities - and an influx it was!

MAF Pilot Craig Fulton arrived at Gove airport before the sun had risen to do pre-flight checks on the first day. As soon as he was able, he took off from Gove heading towards Ramingining, a 55-minute flight from Gove airport.

With an efficient turn around on the ground in Ramingining, Craig was soon back in the air with 5 passengers on board. There was such a vibe of joy as the kids jumped off the plane in Gove, chatting and dancing around. They were really looking forward to this event!

After a refuel, Craig was back in the air to pick up more children and teachers. Not far from Ramingining, MAF Pilot Raphael Flach was also flying back and forth in relay with loads of children and teachers from Elcho Island to Yirrkala.

With the constant movement of passengers our staff that barely had a minute to take a break. Operations Manager Roland Van Der Velde heaved a sigh of relief when the last large load was safely on the ground. By the end of the day, 28 people from Ramingining and 29 from Elcho Island had been flown in.

Yirrkala was a hive of activity over the next three days as smiling children participated in sporting activities wearing the new shirts, made especially for the event, with pride. Activities including athletics, basketball and football kept the children and teachers busy during the day and throughout the early evenings, there was music and fun bonding activities for all. Real happiness was evident in the kid’s faces, which is sadly not always the case in everyday life.

Thursday came around quickly and it was soon time for MAF reverse the mass movement of people back to their communities. Physical tiredness was evident as the kids arrived at the airport but there was also the same buzz and vibe that arrived with them on Monday. The event had been really good!

All in all, the event was a notable success, strengthening ties within and between remote communities in the remote corner of Australia’s northern territory.  

It is our hope that sports events like this will have a long-term impact on the lives of the children, schools, and communities. Five MAF Pilots flew over 110 passengers and we look forward to doing it all again next year!