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Port to host Indigenous All-Stars summit

PORT ADELAIDE will host the AFL’s 2019 Indigenous All-Stars Summit next week, bringing the event to South Australia for the first time.

The four-day camp will see around 70 of the competition’s 83 Aboriginal players visit Alberton starting on Sunday to network and engage in a series of activities and experiences which highlight Indigenous art and culture.

Port Adelaide’s Aboriginal Programs Manager Paul Vandenbergh was instrumental in securing the hosting rights for the summit, but the AFL’s General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch said the club’s record in the Indigenous space played a part as well.

“It’s very well-known across the industry that the Port Adelaide Football Club has got a significant footprint when it comes to the work that they do with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, not only in South Australia but beyond,” she told portadelaidefc.com.au.

“Obviously the club also frequently has a large cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players on its list.

“It is definitely a club known for that history and has often led the way in relation to this sort of work.”

Vandenbergh said it was a special opportunity for the club and a reward for its work in the Indigenous space.

“We’ve demonstrated that if you invest in this space that the benefits come back two-fold,” he said.

“Whether that’s getting a young kid through high school or giving them the chance to be drafted, or the industry recognising you and the work that you do, or Paddy Ryder picking us as a club over everyone else because of the supports and programs that we run.”

He said having the camp in Adelaide made it easier for more players to attend because of its central location.

The summit is run in conjunction with the AFL and AFL Players’ Association and is primarily for Indigenous players, but Vandenbergh has also extended an invitation to club presidents, chief executives and captains to attend.

“Even though it is an Indigenous camp for Indigenous players, I thought there was a gap, there should have been an opportunity to bring everyone together so we can share our culture and understand each other a bit better,” Vandenbergh said.

“At all the camps we talk about our needs and what the clubs can do for us in terms of the supports and programs that are delivered but it almost falls on deaf ears if the admin, or the GM of football or your captain isn’t there to hear why that is important to players.

“The Indigenous players in the AFL always want to do community work, to give back, and the only way you do that is you bring everyone closer, and we get an understanding over everyone’s needs and work together to find solutions that meet in the middle.

“Football has been a real leader for Australia in terms of how you go about Indigenous affairs, and if we can nail it, then I think any industry can nail it.”

At least six club CEOs are confirmed attendees along with five AFL Commissioners plus the AFL executive.

Four AFL captains are expected to attend along with Geelong’s Patrick Dangerfield, representing the AFL Players’ Association.

Vandenbergh said the camp would include workshops about pathways for Indigenous players into coaching and the media because there was a clear lack of Aboriginal coaches and voices in the media.

He said attendees would visit the Point Pearce Aboriginal Community on Yorke Peninsula to meet elders and go fishing, they would be taught some traditional dance and representatives of each club would make a boomerang and learn about the tool’s significance to Aboriginal people.

While Shaun Burgoyne, Eddie Betts, Paddy Ryder and Lance Franklin will be among those in town, the event will also give younger Indigenous players an opportunity to network.

“It allows Tobin Cox to get the confidence to go and talk to Shaun Burgoyne and understand how you get such longevity in the game,” Vandenbergh said.

“You get one player in the twilight of their career and one just starting but you get them together to connect.

“They know they are in a unique position to be able to play in the AFL and it is about using that platform to spread positive messages and create change.”

Ms Hosch said the summit was a rare opportunity to get the players together to identify how their AFL experience could be better.

“We know Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up around three per-cent of the Australian population but almost consistently now we have had almost ten per-cent Indigenous players in the elite playing group right across the league so we’re definitely boxing above our weight there,” she said.

“The opportunity for the players to come together is rare and it’s an opportunity to share their experiences playing the game and to give us some guidance about what we can do to enhance that experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who play the game, at least at the elite level, and how we can make sure that the transition in and transition out gives them the greatest chance of success.”