The 2018 NAIDOC Week theme is ‘Because of Her, We Can.’
This year we celebrate the invaluable contributions that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have made, and continue to make, to our communities, our families, our rich history and to our nation.
In line with this theme, we caught up with two Aboriginal women who have made significant contributions to grassroots football in WA as volunteers of our great game.
Sharon Miniter is a wife to a football-mad husband, mum of a football player and an all-round support for the love of the game.
Sharon lives in the Great Southern town of Gnowangerup and makes regular trips to and from Perth to help coordinate and support a number of football events. These include the annual Kirby Bentley Cup, a round-robin football event for young Aboriginal girls and the Nicky Winmar Carnival involving Aboriginal boys aged 13 to 15 years.
Sharon’s daughter has represented WA in the AFL National Female Diversity Championships and her husband introduced NAIDOC Round to the Ongerup Football Association three years ago. This year will see her local football club, Gnowangerup FC, don a specially designed jumper for the first time for the Round.
Minister said it is really exciting being involved in female football.
“Football is forever growing and the introduction of the AFL Women’s competition is a great thing for all our young girls currently playing at the grassroots level,” Miniter said.
“In my role as volunteer I not only assist with the operational aspect of the game, but I’m also there as a support base for all the aboriginal girls participating.
“I am there for each and every player whether it’s a footy concern or just life in general. I want the girls to know that they can talk to me about anything.
Minister said being able to watch a round of football dedicated to Aboriginal people is a very special feeling.
“NAIDOC round to me is a special time for our people. The recognition of past and present players no matter what grade or league they play in is special,” she said.
“I feel proud to be an Aboriginal person to watch our people play their hearts out week in and week out on the footy field.”
Natasha Gillespie has been involved in female football for more than five years and has fulfilled the role of Team Manager for the Swan Districts Youth Girls team, Swan Districts Reserves and more recently, the WA Female Kickstart team.
Gillespie said she has learnt a lot over the past five years working in football.
“I have learnt that a team manager’s role does not stop at the paperwork or washing guernseys, you have to be a bit of an all-rounder, she said.
“The footy team becomes a footy family - I am looking after the girls, playing mum and aunty, braiding hair on game day, cooking for them, and generally taking care of each and every one of them as if they were my own.
“With the Kickstart team manager role, I really wanted to help the girls get the most out of footy for however long they decided to play it.
“Football has taught the girls that they can achieve a lot of things in life, even outside of football, if they work hard, stay positive and set goals.
Gillespie said NAIDOC Round is a fantastic initiative led by the WAFL with the support of Rio Tinto.
“NAIDOC Round gives our people the opportunity to showcase Aboriginal culture and talent and I love that each team and their players really put in the effort to wear the Indigenous designed jumpers with pride,” she said.
WAFC Reconciliation Action Plan
WAFL NAIDOC Round is one key project that sits within the WAFC’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). The RAP aims to build upon the strong relationship between Aboriginal people and the Western Australian football community. In doing so the RAP will continue to grow this relationship, increase respect and recognition and provide further opportunities for Aboriginal people to participate in all aspects associated with football in Western Australia. In addition the RAP will improve social relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Western Australians.
“It is great to see such a plan in place. If there is one way we can close the gap between Aboriginal and Non aboriginal people it is with sport and football in particular as football has played a great part in a lot of people’s lives.” – Sharon Miniter
“ I had the opportunity to edit the RAP plan and thought it was great. It's awesome to see that there even is a RAP plan to begin with, and that more importantly it's being followed and it's not just a 'tick the boxes' document.” – Natasha Gillespie