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Indigenous Olympians given financial hand in AOC's long-term vision towards Brisbane 2032

Indigenous Olympians preparing for Paris have been earmarked for a grant of $5000 each towards training and costs in one of two key initiatives to increase the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island contenders heading to the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane.

The Australian Olympic Committee is committed to at least a $50,000 cash

splurge to help with general expenses for 10 male and female who already have qualified for the Olympics under the new Indigenous Athlete Performance Grants program.

Ngarrindjeri woman Marissa Williamson Pohlman is set to be the first Indigenous female boxer at the Olympics, but was feeling the pinch about paying everyday bills ahead of Paris.

A number of qualified Olympians including Williamson Pohlman have resigned from their jobs, while others have reportedly taken unpaid leave to focus on intense final preparation that leaves them cash-poor for months.

"Every penny counts at the moment, honestly, for the training and making sure I am eating the right foods," Williamson Pohlman told Nine Media.

Every Indigenous athlete that is guaranteed to compete at the 2024 Olympics has been offered the cash once they meet the AOC criteria set out by its Indigenous Advisory Committee.

"We're hoping that at least 10 athletes will take advantage, and hopefully a whole lot more if they get to be in the team in Paris," AOC president Ian Chesterman said.

"I think it will really give them a bit of last-minute support and if that money is not all spent it can help them come out of Paris to start their preparation for 2028."

The highest number of Indigenous athletes to attend the Olympics were the combined 16 men and women across 11 sports during Tokyo 2020 which was delayed a year during the initial outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Indigenous athletes still remain heavily under-represented among the 462 Australians that are heading to Paris, equating to just 2.16 per cent of the nation's total population – or about a ratio of 0.69:1.00 of all First Nations people.

All Australian athletes, who claim a medal at the Games, are also paid a $20,000 bonus for winning a gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.

Chesterman also announced on the weekend the creation of an Australian Olympic Indigenous Athlete Fund designed to generate between $500,000 and $1 million a year.

The fund has been created to enhance opportunities and pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander competitors in high-performance Olympic sports, while promoting increased representation of First Nations talent over the following two Olympiads.

Chesterman unveiled details of a scheme, which would allow philanthropists to make tax-deductible donations, via the Australian Sports Foundation, to a new aspiring Australian Olympic Indigenous Athlete Fund and the existing Medal Incentive fund.

"The AOC will encourage high net worth individuals seeking a return on investment, to invest through the fund, thus gaining access to a curated portfolio of Australian and global fund managers," Chesterman said.

"The fund managers will forgo their fees, effectively providing around 1 per cent of each invested amount to flow to the fund.

"This is a simple, but effective method of providing a pool of funds that can assist the AOC deliver on its ambitions to deliver practical support for Indigenous Australians."

Kaantyu man and former Olympic sprinter Patrick Johnson, who is the chairperson of the AOC Indigenous Advisory Committee chairperson, welcomed the long-term initiative.

"The creation of the Australian Olympic Indigenous Athlete Fund is just a wonderful initiative that will assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island athletes realise their Olympic dreams," Johnson said.

"As we look to Paris, LA 2028, and importantly towards Brisbane 2032, the fund will make a real difference to those talented athletes overcoming real hardship to get to the starting line. "We know the talent is out there.

"To see more Indigenous Australians on our Olympic teams is something the AOC Indigenous Advisory Committee holds dear.

"It's heartening to see this real commitment turning ideas into action."

Celebrating and strengthening the AOC's commitment to Indigenous reconciliation through sport, the board voted at the annual general meeting to amend the AOC's Constitution, in particular, a small but significant change to clause 6.6.

Following consultation with the AOC's Indigenous Advisory Committee, the clause will now read:

'To recognise and value the heritage, culture and contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to Australia and the Olympic Movement, and to promote and give practical support to the journey of reconciliation through sport'.

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