The fact that indigenous Australians excel in sports is without question. Taking this understanding on board, the University of Queensland has for the past five years held the Indigenous Youth Sports Program aimed at introducing students to university life.
Breaking down cultural barriers is often the first step toward acceptance of unfamiliar surroundings. Talented indigenous youth are naturally drawn to outdoor activity and sporting pursuits, so the Indigenous Youth Sports Program was developed to create a bridge between a love of sports and the opportunity to engage in higher education.
A positive change
The program also focuses on academic and cultural activities, and the youth invariably come away with a new-found appreciation for tertiary study and the opportunities it can provide. Professor Cindy Shannon, UQ Pro-Vice Chancellor (Indigenous Education) regards the program highly.
“This unique initiative helps students feel comfortable with the idea of going to university by giving them the opportunity to experience university life first-hand in a safe and positive learning environment,” she said.
The UQ sports program has resulted in greater attention to school work by many of the students, who now understand and believe there is a very real opportunity to attend university if they apply themselves. Feelings of greater self-worth, community engagement, and a positive future outlook are also noticeable.
Connecting sport, study, and career choices
Talented indigenous athletes and sports people naturally respect their sporting seniors. The UQ program introduces them to students and academics in a familiar environment, surrounded by high-grade facilities and equipment. According to John Brady, the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health Program Coordinator, Physical activity and sports are some of the best ways for indigenous students to connect with study and career choices.
“Sport and physical activity are significant positive mediums for Indigenous youth…many of the Indigenous Youth Sport Program activities aim to improve skills and confidence through activities including AFL, athletics, traditional dance and workshops in sports psychology,” Mr Brady said.
The program was inspired by the success of the US National Youth Sports Program, and developed with the assistance of proactive partners including:
- Institute for Urban Indigenous Health
- Inala Indigenous Health Service
- Education Queensland
- UQ’s School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences
- UQ’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit