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Record number of First Nations athletes return for 2024 Share a Yarn program

Australian Archer Sarah Haywood is one of 13 ambassadors returning to the AIS Share a Yarn First Nations Cultural Connection program along with two new ambassadors and one new mentor.

For Australian Archer Sarah Haywood, a Biripi/Ngarabal woman who grew up in nipaluna/Hobart, the AIS Share a Yarn First Nations Cultural Connection program provided an opportunity to embrace her cultural identity in ways she never had before.

Now, while chasing qualification for Paris 2024, she’s returning to the program for a second year ready to delve deeper into her family history and cultural traditions.

“Being part of Share a Yarn last year was phenomenal. The connections I made and understanding of my culture have increased greatly due to this program,” Haywood said.

“This year I want to honour my late mum by strengthening my connections to country and mob. I also want to continue exploring Indigenous art, which I have been creating with encouragement by my mentor from last year, Brad Hore.”

Haywood is one of 13 athletes returning this year alongside two new ambassadors in Junior Matilda and cricketer Rosie McMahon and netball up-and-comer Scarlet Jauncey.

The record number of returning ambassadors is a testament to the program’s aim to create safe environments for Indigenous athletes to meet, learn from one another, and connect with their cultural identity through sport.

This initiative aligns with the High Performance Sport System’s commitment to enhancing meaningful connections with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, histories, communities, and cultures, underpinned by the Connection to Country Action Plan of Australia’s High Performance 2032+ Sport Strategy.

Each year, athlete ambassadors are paired with a First Nation mentor familiar with navigating the system as an Indigenous athlete.

Joining as a new mentor in 2024 is sporting all-rounder Bo de la Cruz, who is recognised as a champion in Touch Football, Rugby Union, Rugby League, and AFL.

“Mentoring Indigenous athletes provides crucial support in navigating the unique challenges they face, such as cultural barriers, limited access to resources, and connection to family, culture and land,” de la Cruz said.

“It also plays a vital role in preserving and celebrating Indigenous cultures within the sporting community, inspiring future generations to pursue their athletic dreams while staying connected to their heritage – if you can see it, you can be it.”

The group will participate in online mentoring sessions and culturally affirming activities before coming together for an in-person cultural connection camp at the AIS in Canberra later this year.

Courtesy: AIS

Photo Courtesy: AIS

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