It took a trip to Darwin for players to discover they were cousins.

Through my role at the Club as Female Talent Academies Coordinator, I had the pleasure of taking four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academy members on a football and cultural immersion trip.

After open conversations, players Dominique Sleep from Kapunda and Tamika Reid from Port Augusta soon realised they were related.

Before long, the power of conversation became the theme of the trip.

Alongside Academies coach Bronwyn Davey, we spent five extensive days with the selected teenagers.

A visit to the Tiwi islands, sharing stories and yarns with Indigenous people, a training session with the NT Thunder VFLW team, analysing the AFL match against the Demons and meeting some of the AFL men’s players were just some of the highlights.

The trip was fully funded with the support of Quitline, minimising any financial barriers to the players.

The opportunity was more than a rewards trip for the girls’ positive attendance, behaviours, attitudes and commitment to the academy program.

It was also about introducing them to the next level of football, what it’s like to be an AFLW player and creating a safe space to share cultural differences.

The girls also had the opportunity to meet Indigenous VFLW players Sharona Bishop and Janet Baird, AFLW premiership player Danielle Ponter and AFL players Eddie Betts, Cam Ellis-Yolmen and Wayne Milera.  

The day trip to the Tiwi Islands was an experience the girls won’t forget.

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It was my second visit to the Island, and we weren’t entirely sure what we were in for when we landed ashore.

The teenagers were thrusted into the lime light, a bit like an AFLW player, having to present to an entire primary school assembly about their journeys and answering questions from the students.

The most daunting experience was then to speak in front of high school students, people the same age as them.

We all then assisted with umpiring a students vs teachers football match. It was incredible to see the raw talent and skill of some of those children.

I was incredibly proud of these girls; they were exceptional role models and represented our club extremely well.

Every night we held conversations and personal reflections around our highlight of the day, our most challenging part and what we were most grateful for.

One of the key messages from the trip was about overcoming fear and being courageous enough to share our stories, our thoughts and opinions with others and to engage in genuine conversations.

Conversations on our trip led to educating one another about our similarities and differences.

Organisations we met with such as AFLNT and Quitline opened the door for work experience opportunities and or traineeships for the girls and for some, it led to finding out they were family members.

Sharona Bishop spoke about the Stolen Generation and how that has affected a lot of Indigenous people in not knowing where they’re from or where they belong.

She spoke about how conversations are vital for assisting in finding that connection to country and cultural identity.

We also spoke about the importance of storytelling.

The power of our own stories and over-coming challenges can often be the strength for someone else, we must never underestimate the impact we can have on others.

The girls were tremendously grateful for the opportunity and walked away as friends for life.