'Now More Than Ever' hits home for National Reconciliation Week

From Michael Ah Matt in 1964 to Ally Wilson in 2024 - Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander players continue to enrich our game

Basketball Australia is celebrating National Reconciliation Week and acknowledges First Nations communities and the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and athletes across the country.   

The theme for 2024, ‘Now More Than Ever’ resonates strongly as we work towards improving pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to play basketball at all levels. 

You don’t have to look far to notice the representation and impact of First Nations players on the current landscape of Australian basketball.   

One of Australia’s greatest-ever players Patty Mills AM (Muralag / Kokatha) was the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to be appointed flag bearer - doing so at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games.  

The Gangurrus 3x3 program features two athletes of Indigenous heritage, Ally Wilson (Ngarrindjeri) and Will ‘Davo’ Hickey (Gamilaroi / Gomeroi) representing on the world stage - with both featured in the Australian 'golden sweep' at FIBA 2024 Asia Cup.  In August, Ally will become the first Indigenous player to represent Australia in 3x3 with the Gangurrus qualifying for the Paris Olympics earlier this month.

There's a cast of First Nation's stars in the NBL and WNBL as well. Among those with National team reps - Will McDowell-White currently plays across the Tasman for the NZ Breakers, Olympic bronze-medallist Leilani Mitchell was a part of the Southside Flyers WNBL Championship campaign and Keanu Pinder plays West with the Perth Wildcats. 

Indigenous Lead Pauly Vandenbergh (far left) and Indigenous Program Manager Sammi Rioli (fourth from right) with First Nations players and coaches at the recent National Performance Camp.

With foundations in place - the next level of progress for Basketball Australia is intrinsically linked to the final phase of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) - paired with a range of ongoing projects and initiatives from grassroots to the elite level.  

Basketball Australia's Indigenous Lead, Pauly Vandenbergh and Indigenous Program Manager, Sammi Rioli will hold a National Indigenous Performance Camp later this year for young athletes at the Centre of Excellence in Canberra.   

She Hoops introduced its inaugural Indigenous Leadership Program, a holistic program aimed at offering Indigenous girls a range of new skills with physical, social and emotional benefits and Basketball Australia and the States and Territories will continue to collaborate with community programs including Hoops 4 Health (Northern Territory), Koorie Academy (Victoria), Binar (WA) and Aboriginal Basketball Academy (South Australia) to ensure there are multiple levels to access and engage the pathways.

National Reconciliation Week 'Now More Than Ever' runs from 27 May - 3 June. For more information on activity happening around the country - click here.


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