Written by Samara Fernandez
During the final week of June, the University of Adelaide’s Indigenous Nationals team made their way to Perth where they were lucky enough to compete in the 2019 tournament.
The team consisted of two staff members from Wirltu Yarlu, Tjimarri Sanderson-Milera (team captain) and Samara Fernandez (myself), seven students, Amber Sluggett (team captain), Katie Aspel, Kaya Scott, Kiara Sharpe, James Williams, Joshua Fouyaxis and Darren Dixox and were coached by Thomas Sharpe from Adelaide University Sport.
This year’s Indigenous Nationals were hosted by the University of Western Australia, on Whadjuk Noongar country. The tournament was five days full of culture, athletic competition, connections and fun.
As an Indigenous event, culture was at the heart of the entire week - it could be seen through dance, song and language. The competition began with an opening ceremony celebrating the coming together of different mobs and language groups from across Australia. As is custom in Indigenous culture, we were welcomed to both the country and the competition by respected Whadjuk Noongar/ Yamatji Elder, Dr Richard Walley. This important ceremony allowed all who gathered to pay their respects to the traditional owners and custodians of the beautiful country of Perth, the Whadjuk Noongar people. Team Adelaide University thank both the University of Western Australia and the Whadjuk Noongar people for their hospitality.
Though the primary objective for each university was to walk away as the 2019 Champions in one (or all) of the four sports played throughout the 5 days (netball, volleyball, touch football, and basketball) there was a great show of respect between all universities and competitors. It was common to hear compliments given between opposing team mates during games, and to see opposing teams celebrate each other’s wins after the games.
To show the great sportsmanship and comraderies of the competition, upon concluding each game it was custom for both opposing teams to grant each other with 3 cheers and to share a team photo, because win, draw or loss, both teams walked away as brothers and sisters.
I think this speaks to the amazing connections made between everyone at the competition. Although we were all extremely competitive, there was a huge emphasis on socialising and networking, with the Indigenous Nationals ensuring social nights were included in the tournament. Social nights included themes of “favourite sporting team”, “decade night”, and a masquerade ball. During the week many lifelong connections and friendships were forged, with many competitors vowing to stay in touch.
Though our team did not return to Adelaide with an overall win, it is important to congratulate:
• The University of Swinburne for being the overall 2019 Basketball Champions
• The University of Queensland for being the overall 2019 Volleyball Champions
• The University of Technology Sydney for being the overall 2019 Touch rugby Champions
• The Australian Catholic University for being the overall 2019 netball Champions
• The University of Technology Sydney for winning the overall Indigenous Nationals Champions
• Deakin University for winning the Weirn (Spirit) of the Games award, and
• All the individuals who won MVPs in each of the four sports.
For me, the magnitude of the Indigenous Nations is yet to sink in. It was such a special event to be a part of, because it signifies a generation of change. A generation of strong leaders who believe in education. Leaders who will be role models in their families and communities. Some of the individuals who attended the games are the first of their families to attend university, let alone graduate university with a degree. To witness future leaders connecting is truly an exciting thing to be a part of. I do not think I speak only for myself when saying that it was an honour to be a part of this year’s games.
The Indigenous Nations 2019 has left a significant impact on those who attended the event, whether they be students, staff, or coaches, with some individuals jokingly self-diagnosing themselves with “post-nationals-withdrawals”. This is due to the positive, and supportive environment, where students were free to showcase their pride in their culture, their athletic abilities and their universities, with students free to mingle and connect, while competing in healthy competition.
Now that the University of Adelaide’s team has had a taste of the Indigenous Nationals, they cannot wait to return to compete in Newcastle in 2020!