PORT ADELAIDE’s industry leading Women’s Aboriginal AFL Academy has received high praise during a visit to Alberton by the Governor-General on Tuesday.

So inspired by the one-of-a-kind program was His Excellency General, the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove, that he and his wife, Lady Cosgrove made a special detour during a brief visit to Adelaide to Port Adelaide’s headquarters to enjoy an afternoon tea with members of the Academy (WAAA).

The visit was an important event in the lead up to International Women’s day on Friday.

After a powerful welcome to country performance by Indigenous dance group Yellaka, His Excellency took to the stage to address the Academy participants, and later mingled amongst them to meet as many as he could.

He told the year 11 and 12 students they were part of a special community at the Port Adelaide Football Club.

“Women’s sport at the moment is showing the way in Australia, with all of the problems that beset the great winter codes, sometimes even cricket, we can look at the women’s expression of athletic excellence and the ethos of the game and say that there is much to be proud about,” he said.

“You’re in a fortunate place where you can feed your minds and grow your confidence and your prospects for an unfettered future as well as giving it a red hot go in this great game.”

Sir Cosgrove revealed to the girls that he had an uncle who played for Richmond in the VFL before being killed in World War II.

While known to be passionate about cricket and rugby league, the Governor-General also takes pride in promoting women’s sport.

“If all of those past AFL players, if their ghosts could crowd into this room they’d be mightily pleased to see you young women embarked in this great program,” he told the WAAA participants.

“I’ve got to say to the club, to the league, to all those people who are sponsors, benefactors and promoters of this program, well done.

“Most of all I say well done to you young women, for being here, sticking with it, buckling down, doing the school work so that you can do the next thing.”

The Governor-General admitted his exposure to Port Adelaide and its football club was limited, although he seemed fairly well versed in the history of the Port Adelaide Football Club.

“You’ve just got to know a bit about AFL to know what a storied, famous and hugely respected club is Port,” he said to the packed room, which included program sponsors, club board members and staff.

“But what I did know is that Port Adelaide came to see its Australian rules football team as emblematic of the community.

“This was not a place where rich people came to build castles. This was a place where hard work was done by Australians who were hard men and very tough women, who had to struggle to get on.

“That characterised so much of Port Adelaide’s existence.

“That was reflected through its footy team, and the classic battles over time between Port and Norwood, and more recently between Port and the Crows is emblematic of a community which takes enormous pride in its people out there in its jersey, playing for the community.”

The Governor-General was presented with a framed WAAA guernsey and Lady Cosgrove a traditional Indigenous carrying vessel used for generations, called a piti.

Port Adelaide CEO Keith Thomas thanked his esteemed guests for helping the club celebrate the lead up to International Women’s Day.

“We are famous for two things – we have played some pretty decent footy at this ground, that’s true, but perhaps more importantly, we have a commitment to our community, which we think elevates our purpose beyond simply being a sporting club,” Mr Thomas explained.

“As we look forward to celebrating International Women’s Day, it gives us great pride to be able to introduce the wonderful young women who make up our SAASTA Women’s Aboriginal AFL Academy.

“This program is quite unique in Australia with 30 students participating in years 11 and 12.

“It focusses not only on a sporting aspect, though many of these girls are very talented athletes in their own right, but largely on education, leadership and resilience.”

“Essentially, these impressive young women are preparing to be the next leaders of their communities and their families, and we are very very proud of them.”

The academy is a partnership between the football club, the South Australian Aboriginal Sports Training Academy, Adelaide University and RAA.

It combines educational components with specialised football training, with requirements that participants enrol to complete their SACE, maintain 80% attendance at school, adhere to behaviour and standards of both their school and the Port Adelaide Football Club, and they volunteer in our community engagement programs.