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Port Adelaide's Powerful Futures program

The AFL Indigenous round may be over but the conversation regarding the outcomes of this nation’s First Peoples is still just as relevant, especially during Port Adelaide’s annual Aboriginal Power Cup carnival.

In its eleventh year, the APC has a record 450 students participating from 70 schools across South Australia.

The industry-leading program focuses on engaging young people in Aboriginal culture and identity, education, promoting healthy lifestyle choices and developing teamwork, leadership and life skills, all with a competitive football carnival as its centrepiece.

To participate in the carnival, students must meet strict guidelines regarding a minimum 80% school attendance and targets regarding both academic and behavioural components of the program.

The program is seeing remarkable results in its participants’ school attendance rates, engagement and year 12 attainment rates, with 96% of the class of 2017 completing year 12.

Of the seven targets in the 2008 Closing the Gap plan, only three are on target to be met, including halving the gap in year 12 attainment by 2020.


Port Adelaide Director of Aboriginal Programs Paul Vandenbergh says APC has been directly linked to helping to close the gap in year 12 attainment.

“Our goal after the carnival then turns to how we transition these young people into further education or employment opportunities,” he said.

“We feel like from an engagement and retention and completion perspective we’re tracking really well but now the challenge, not just for us but for the Education Department and the sponsors on board with the Aboriginal Power Cup program is how do we then create opportunities for our young people to either get work experience or a traineeship or an apprenticeship?”

In 2016 a new program called Powerful Futures was initiated, hoping to help APC students go onto further education, traineeships, apprenticeships or employment, leveraging off partnerships formed by Port Adelaide and its Power Community Limited organisation.

The program is aimed at addressing one of the Closing the Gap targets that Australia is not on target to achieve – halving the gap in employment rates by the end of 2018.

“Powerful Futures is really critical going forward, especially with our Alumni group which sits at around 850 people,” Vandenbergh said.

“It’s about how we connect with them and connect them with opportunities around the workforce because we don’t want our young people sitting at home accessing Centrelink or without opportunities.

“We want them accessing TAFE or university – and Adelaide University have come on board this year and are offering up amazing opportunities to get our young people into university.

“What we know, and I can vouch for this having been through this pathway myself, is that if we can get these young people into further education that we’ll stop talking about closing this gap – especially around education.

“If we can get that mindset and that mentality into our young people we can eventually stop talking about closing the gap.”


In 2018, Port Adelaide has appointed a full-time coordinator for the Powerful Futures program with Braedon Talbot now on board.

Among those singing the praises of Powerful Futures and the APC is 20-year-old Matthew Karpany-Carter who completed the APC in 2015 as a student of Murray Bridge High School, and has since found employment within the Attorney General’s Department thanks to Powerful Futures.

“It was at this event where I felt welcome and valued and the whole program helped me learn and develop important skills,” said Mr Karpany-Carter during a visit to the 2018 APC carnival.

“I see Powerful Futures and the APC program as a foundation which helped ignite a flame to push me through the hard work and build a career.

“It was a bridge tool that helped motivate me and it pushed me in the right direction.

“I am so happy that I went through it because I can honestly say I may not be where I am today had I not taken part in those programs.”

Mr Karpany-Carter initially found employment through Powerful Futures in hospitality through AccorHotel group but having a Certicate III in Sport and Recreation opened doors to move down a different path and he soon had a traineeship with the Attorney General’s Department working in the SA Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

He has since moved into a new role as a project support officer with Safework SA.

“I had that support of family and the Aboriginal community, which is very strong, but I had to make the link from support to action and the programs helped me make those links,” Mr Karpany-Carter said.

“Sport and football in particular really resonates with Aboriginal people in particular and it acts as a filter point.

“What Port Adelaide does is a great initiative but I would like to see it in a number of different agencies as well, and if organisations can leverage off this as well then we could get even better outcomes.”

It is a potential that excites Paul Vandenbergh as well.

“We’re really excited about this program, it’s three years in the making and we’re starting to see some really positive results,” he said.

“It’s people like Matthew who are creating a real role model effect, not only for his old school up at Murray Bridge but across the board.

“That’s what we want to do, is have role models for the young people in this carnival now, and then they become the role models for their younger brothers, sisters and cousins.

“We probably take for granted how important role models are but that’s what you need to do when you become a leader in your family and your community.”

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