The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has initiated a groundbreaking scholarship program aimed at empowering and nurturing First Nations coaches to inspire Indigenous Olympians of the future. By addressing the mantra "you can't be what you can't see," the program aims to offer opportunities and knowledge to these coaches, enabling them to positively impact their communities and foster homegrown medallists in sports like athletics, hockey, and swimming.
A dozen cultural mentors from diverse fields were selected to participate in the Australian Olympic Indigenous Coach Scholarship program. The program's inaugural session was conducted during a sports event for Indigenous children at a RAAF base near Katherine. The initiative received significant support from the AOC's CEO, Matt Carroll, who highlighted the practical aid and technical training that the coaches would receive to advance their careers and contribute effectively to Indigenous sports leadership.
This program isn't just about training; it's about nurturing talent. Coaches like Dawn Baira from the Torres Strait Islands have been focused on developing skills and pathways for aspiring athletes. Her dream is to mentor a young athlete to the Olympics by 2032. Similarly, Shana-Ann Casimiro, based in Darwin, has already found immense value in the program's initial stages, especially in understanding individual coaching approaches and improving her technical skills to better connect with her players.
Former athletes like Libby Cook-Black and Andrew Thorpe have transitioned from competing to coaching. Libby Cook-Black, once a Jillaroos rugby league forward, is now focused on mentoring athletes in Cairns, while Andrew Thorpe, who faced tough challenges during the pandemic, has embraced coaching athletics. Their journeys highlight the resilience and determination needed to transition from the field to the mentoring space.
The program, supported by the Indigenous Marathon Foundation and Indigenous Basketball Australia, signifies a collaborative effort to elevate Indigenous representation in future Olympic Games. These scholarships aim not just to train coaches but also to foster a legacy of indigenous excellence in sports leadership for years to come.
The AOC's partnership with corporate entities has enabled the initiation and execution of this innovative program, paving the way for greater Indigenous representation in Australia's sporting future.
The scholarship holders are:
Dawn Baira (QLD/Torres Strait Islands) – Hockey
Tiana Brockhurst (QLD) – Athletics
Simone Carre (VIC) – Athletics
Travis Carroll (NT) – Hockey
Shana-Ann Casimiro (NT) – Hockey
Ben Catley (WA) – Athletics
Libby Cook-Black (QLD) – Athletics
Kim Eulenstein (NSW) – Swimming
Michael Faccin (NSW) – Swimming
Keegan Popowski (QLD) – Hockey
Timothy Stephens (QLD) – Athletics
Andrew Thorpe (VIC) – Athletics
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Photo Courtesy National Indigenous Times
Courtesy National Indigenous Times