AN exciting and innovative new Indigenous AFL program has been launched in South Australia, which aims to provide an elite training environment for Indigenous students who demonstrate a commitment to achieving excellence in both sport and education.
A joint initiative between the Port Adelaide Football Club and the South Australian Aboriginal Sports Training Academy (SAASTA), the Aboriginal AFL Academy is the first of its kind in the national game.
The academy builds on Port Adelaide’s already highly successful Aboriginal Power Cup which is in its seventh year this year and involves more than 300 Aboriginal students across more than 30 schools.
South Australia’s executive director of Aboriginal Education David Rathman, says the program provides an opportunity for success, which is critical in building a culture of success for young Aboriginal people.
“It’s important to increase the number of young Aboriginal people, particularly those playing football, who can actually obtain some long term benefits from understanding that there is a limited football life.
“They’ll need to ensure that they’ve got something beyond that, that’s got some future for them and allow them to participate in the community as well as gain employment, maybe go on to further education and higher education, but certainly to encourage them to see schooling as an important long term commitment, as opposed to the short life that sport can provide for them.”
The academy will include a squad of 30 players who will spend one day each week at Port’s home, Alberton, completing a Cert III in Sport and Recreation.
The students will receive tuition from a range of experts, including lecturers from TAFE SA, as well as Port Adelaide and SAASTA staff, but importantly, be mentored by Port players and SAASTA mentors.
In order to be considered eligible for the Academy, participants must be enrolled to complete their SACE at a South Australian school, maintain a minimum 80 per cent attendance rate across all subjects throughout the school year, achieve academic success in all subjects (C grade or better) and adhere at all times to the school’s behaviour management code.
Last year, almost 70 per cent of Aboriginal students in South Australia stayed on to Year 12, which is the highest retention rate in the nation.
“We put that down to the fact that we have a concerted effort, with the support of our colleagues in secondary schools, to try and maintain those students in schooling,” Rathman says.
And according to Rathman, SAASTA has played a significant role in this effort.
“In terms of the SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education), we’ve tried to increase the number of students completing the VET elements of the SACE, so getting students to complete Certificate IIIs while they’re at school.
“Part of that’s been backed up by a program we call Keeping Them On Track, and this program aims to monitor the progress of students, so with the support of our colleagues in schools who ensure we’re giving intensive support to those students as they go through the system.
“Keeping them On Track is a very strong, important part of that support structure.”
The Aboriginal AFL Academy team is set to compete in the South Australian mid-week public secondary school competition.