For the past three years, former Socceroo Travis Dodd has been actively working to improve football's engagement with the Indigenous population. He is the ambassador for South Australia's Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy (SAASTA), the head coach of the national women's Indigenous Koalas team, and actively participates in the John Moriarty Football (JMF) program. The SAASTA Aboriginal Football Academy is a sports-based education program for male and female Aboriginal students in secondary school, in partnership with Dodd's former club, the North Eastern MetroStars Soccer Club. Dodd plans to take a South Australian men's Indigenous team to the First Nations Indigenous Cup in Queensland later this year.
Despite also working as a finance broker and coaching NPL SA side Croydon FC, Dodd is more invested in helping Aboriginal communities than pursuing a professional coaching career.
“I've got no ambition to coach at a professional level,” Dodd explained.
“Having done that as a player, it's a tough slog as a coach as well so coaching professionally is not my end game.
"In the last couple of months more than ever, I’ve had a lot of involvement with Indigenous football. It's all small steps but hopefully, I'm providing pathways for more Indigenous kids to play and enjoy the game.
“I certainly see that there's potential because there are over 300 registered Indigenous players in South Australia alone. I'd love to see that grow and to help make that number grow.”
Football has always been an important part of Indigenous culture, and it has produced some of Australia's greatest footballers. From the likes of Harry Williams, Charles Perkins, John Moriarty, and Gordon Briscoe, who were among the original trailblazers in the 1950s and 1970s, to the present day, Indigenous people have made significant contributions to the sport. The Moriarty family continues to impact Australia through football to this day, through the John Moriarty Football (JMF) program, which utilizes the sport to foster talent and positive change within Indigenous communities.
Over the last 30 years, there has been a long-awaited increase in Aboriginal representation in our national teams, including Dodd himself. Although he only made two appearances for the Socceroos, he made history when he became the first known Aboriginal player to score a goal for the men's national team. The goal in a 2-0 win over Kuwait in AFC Asian Cup Qualifying in 2006 not only made history, but it also capped off an incredible international debut as Dodd claimed a Man of the Match award and captured the hearts of young Indigenous footballers across the nation.
Dodd has been involved with Indigenous football for several years now and has gained a deeper understanding of his culture. He is part of the Australian Indigenous Football Council, a newly formed organization in South Australia that he wouldn't have engaged with a couple of years ago because he lacked the confidence to speak about Indigenous culture or history. However, he now feels more comfortable speaking about it and owning it, even though he acknowledges that he doesn't have to know everything.
Dodd is a great example of how sports can be used to promote positive change and provide opportunities for Indigenous people to participate in the sport. His work with the SAASTA Aboriginal Football Academy, the national women's Indigenous Koalas team, and the JMF program has provided pathways for more Indigenous children to play and enjoy the game.
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Courtesy Football Australia