Mark Coulton - Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government and Federal Member for Parkes - visited Dubbo this week to observe John Moriarty Football (JMF) and was made an Honorary Ambassador.
JMF, which was established in 2012 and is the longest-running and most successful Indigenous football program in Australia, has been recognised for their work in meeting Closing the Gap targets.
The organisation could also hold the key to more Indigenous young players making it through to our national teams.
The initiative addresses 11 of the 16 Closing the Gap targets and is life-changing for more than 1,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls and boys aged 2 to 16 years of age at a cost of just $1,300 per child per year.
It also provides local Aboriginal jobs, with almost two-thirds of the 40 coaching and administrative staff being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and all receiving wide-ranging professional development, including in first aid, safe food handling, mental health and becoming licensed coaches.
Coulton, together with the Member for Dubbo, visited JMF to see first-hand how the initiative is helping close the gap and transform the lives of Indigenous girls and boys, their families and communities.
The minister was honoured with a pair of boots, painted by the young men at the Orana Juvenile Justice Centre where JMF is delivered, and was appointed an Honorary JMF Ambassador.
“It is a pleasure to be here today, to see first-hand the difference this program is making to local children and the wider Dubbo community,” Coulton said.
“I have long been a supporter of programs like this one that use children’s passion for sport to inspire positive change.
“There are also many physical and mental health benefits to playing sport, and it’s great to see the JMF initiative is helping to Close the Gap in our remote and regional communities.
“I’m proud to be an Ambassador of this initiative.”
John Moriarty, co-founder and co-chair of JMF as well as the first Indigenous footballer to play for Australia, gave an update on recent accomplishments.
“What JMF has achieved has been incredible and it’s a real credit to our local coaching teams, community advisory groups and staff,” said Moriarty.
“From a program in the remote Northern Territory community of Borroloola with 120 children in 2012, we now deliver to 18 different communities in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales and partner with 18 public schools.
“Our growth rate for participants in the past 18 months is over 1000 percent.
“One of the main drivers behind our ability to have such a positive impact on the lives of Indigenous children is because we are far more than just a football initiative.
“We provide an integrated solution with an Aboriginal worldview that addresses the educational, physical and mental health, nutritional, and well-being needs of Indigenous children.
“JMF is co-designed and led by local communities, so we can ensure it is delivered in a culturally-embedded way,” he added.
"Following on from the incredible impact JMF has had with its latest expansion, we are seeking further funding to scale the initiative to reach even more Indigenous children and communities across Australia.
“We believe football has the power to effect powerful positive social change and provide pathways to improved physical and mental health, wellbeing, education and community engagement.
“Our goal is to create these pathways and unlock the potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities.”