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Community sport helps increase school attendance in central Australia

Community sport helps increase school attendance in Central Australia

20 Oct 2015
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The annual Santa Teresa football carnival is one of the most popular sporting events in central Australia, drawing teams and supporters from hundreds of kilometres away.

So, it makes sense for the Australian Government to team-up with the community, AFLNT and other organisations working in the community to use the carnival to promote the benefits of a good education.

The Ltyentye Apurte Community, also known as Santa Teresa, is a small community located 80 kilometres from Alice Springs with around 650 residents.

The population swells during the football carnival as teams and supporters from other remote communities arrive.

Sports carnivals throughout central Australia are an important part of culture and community life across the region. However, communities face poor school attendance as families stay in Santa Teresa beyond the weekend to cheer their team on to victory. As a result, Australian Government’s Remote School Attendance Strategy (RSAS) teams, who work with communities to increase school attendance, partnered with AFLNT and organisations like the Australian Drug Foundation to use football as a tool to get students back in the class room as soon as possible after the carnival. 

AFLNT and the community worked together to move the carnival to occur within term 3 school holidays to ensure the carnival wrapped up in time for kids to return to their communities in time to go to school on the first day of term.

Margie Fahy of the Australian Drug Foundation’s Good Sport Program is one of the team working to link sport with getting a good education.

“It’s amazing how much sport can be a really big key to keeping kids engaged in a positive way in their education,” Margie said.

“So we get sport and we get community and put those two things together and you have the opportunity to get some great social outcomes.”

The local community is also heavily involved in the programme and know about the importance of school attendance, as Chris Wallace, chairperson of the local Atyenhenge–Atherre Aboriginal Corporation, states.

“Education is pretty important, it’s for their future,” Chris said.

“It’s really hard for our young people to find work in communities. With a good education they might be able to get jobs in Alice Springs, where it’s bigger, or a better job instead of being on a work for the dole program. One day they might be able to run the corporation,” he said.

Chris recognises the difficulties he and the community face in achieving one hundred per cent school attendance but knows how important it is for the programme to succeed.

“I want them to know about their own identity, who they are, so they can be stronger,” Chris said.

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Randall Coombe:  Catholic Care NT Project Worker
Sports carnivals out in bush communities have probably caused some issues around school attendance.  Quite often they drag past the weekend and into the week, so it’s not only the kids in the community where the carnival is being held that might not end up going to school. All the kids from the visiting communities will stay on to watch their teams progress through the finals through to maybe Monday Tuesday Wednesday.  So obviously theres kids from other communities that weren’t getting back to school.

Cassidy Fitzclarence:  AFLNT Community Football and School Attendance Manager
So I work with the schools as a one off thing and I also work with the people running the carnivals to try and improve the carnivals. But I also work with incentives to get the kids back into school.  Cause quite often even if the carnival finishes people might not go straight back to school cause they’ve been distracted by a carnival the weekend before and all those sorts of things so. We provide a lot of things to get them back into the school ground and into classrooms and that kind of stuff.

Ray Hocking:  AFLNT Umpire Development Manager
Sports carnivals right throughout the remote communities are really a big and important part of the culture.  Theres a lot of marriages that happen at these carnivals.  It’s also a good time for the families to catch up and obviously the football is the main and the important ingredient of that.  Education’s really important as football is out here.  Without the education footballs not going to get the young ones anywhere so we really need them to make sure that they do return to school at the first opportunity which is Tuesday after this carnival and continue that right throughout until the end of the year. The return to school is really important.  Obviously the education of the remote kids is paramount.

Margie Fahy:  Good Sports Program – Australian Drug Foundation
So we get sport and we get community and put those two things together and it becomes more than sport and you get a lot of opportunity to get some great social outcomes.

Chris Wallace:  Chairperson Atyenhenge –Atherre Aboriginal Corporation
Education is pretty important, it’s for their future. Young people you know it’s really hard to find work in communities.  You know they might be able to get jobs in Alice Springs, you know where it’s more a bigger place, you know or a better job instead of being on the Working for the Dole Programme you know or one day they might be able to run the corporation.

Margie Fahy:  Good Sports Program – Australian Drug Foundation
It’s amazing how much sport can also be a really big key to keeping kids engaged in a positive way in their education.

Roy Arbon
Things like these carnivals and things happening in schools – programmes happening in schools where your going talking to the kids about making better choices in life.  And I think those better choices is schooling.  If you can get a kid to get to school that’s the first better choice in their life.  The main better choice in their life is getting to school.  Alright so if you can get through to the kids and they go back and tell their parents that education is the way, that’s the big big start in every community. 

Chris Wallace:  Chairperson Atyenhenge –Atherre Aboriginal Corporation
What I’m trying to create is I want them to know about their own identity, who they are, you know so they can be stronger.

Cassidy Fitzclarence:  AFLNT Community Football and School Attendance Manager
I can see how football has such a big impact in these communities and there’s an obvious link between the two.

Randall Coombe:  Catholic Care NT Project Worker
The only way to get ahead in life and in this society we live in is through better education.  If you haven’t got a good education your opportunities to move forward in life is strictly limited.

Cassidy Fitzclarence:  AFLNT Community Football and School Attendance Manager
People are starting to really get the message that school is important every day and that you got to go every day to get a good education.

Find out more

The Remote School Attendance Strategy is about working together with schools, families, parents, and community to ensure all children go to school every day.  

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