It’s the perfect day for a netball game. While teams go head to head in competition, the supporters cheer on and dance to upbeat music that’s blasting from the tent. These are not your typical uni games; these are the Indigenous Uni Games, where culture, fun and sports come together.
After a 6-year hiatus, Curtin University is participating in the 2014 National Indigenous Tertiary Education Student Games (NITESG), a five-day sports and cultural spectacular that attracts hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from universities around Australia.
This year, teams are competing in four core sports: basketball, netball, touch rugby and volleyball, at the University of Western Australia, home of last year’s reigning champions.
Team Curtin, known as the Deadly Kardaz, is made up of 14 students from the Bentley campus and interstate, as well as two Curtin staff members.
Student Services Manager Ms Emma Riley and Indigenous Support Coordinator Ms Natasha Moore from the Centre of Aboriginal Studies (CAS) are the team organisers.
Emma says the partnership between Curtin Stadium, Curtin’s Equity, Ethics and Social Justice unit (EESJ) and the Centre of Aboriginal Studies made it possible to have a strong team representing Curtin at the games.
“When they went to Canberra in 2008 students had to fundraise everything for themselves. But this year because we have support from the EESJ, students can focus on training,” she says.
Unlike other universities, Curtin has only competed in the games three times in the 18-year history of the games. Despite the odds against them, the squad has been training hard with help from Curtin Stadium coaches.
“The stadium has helped us by providing us with Curtin Athlete Program coaches who have been teaching the students how to play the sports,” Emma says.
“A lot of them didn’t know the rules for volleyball and touch rugby, but the coaches from the Elite Athlete Program helped.”
Natasha says each student is naturally talented and excels in a particular sport, which is an advantage for the event.
“We have quite a few star players and I think this event will boost their confidence,” she says.
The games were established not only to celebrate excellence in athletic ability but also to promote unity, interaction and friendly competition between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
The students are treated to fun social events every evening, which is a great way for students to make new friends.
“It’s about participating, networking, bonding and strengthening their relationships with each other and with students in other universities who are in the same boat,” Emma says.
“We want them to have fun and get to know lots of people and do the best they can but enjoy the experience and not just see it as a competition.”
Natasha says the students are honoured they can represent their university at a national event.
“For us it was more about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students engaging with Curtin as a whole and representing the university, not just the Centre [for Aboriginal Studies],” she says.
The team made the quarterfinals for volleyball, touch rugby and netball, which has motivated them to strive higher next year.
Natasha says she hopes this year is just the beginning of continuous support for a Curtin team at the games.