The remote community of Wadeye has seen fantastic outcomes being achieved over the past twelve months which has stemmed from the hard work and passion shown from the AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) Remote Development program, and particularly the Wadeye Remote Development Manager (RDM) Josh Connell.
In 2018, the number of participants playing in the Wadeye Football League grew significantly from 200 in 2017 to 300 currently, with every team having at least 10-15 more registered players.
Since the commencement of the 2017 football season incarceration rates have dropped significantly in Wadeye, around 30% according to former Wadeye Police Sargent Scott Rose.
Football has had such a positive impact in harmonising the community that they (the community) have collectively decided to extend the local season to 28 rounds, making it the longest season of Australian Rules Football in the Northern Territory.
The successful running of the football programs in Wadeye secured a $10,000 grant from the Northern Territory Government Department of Health to host themed rounds on alcohol and drug cessation and to assist in mitigating the impacts of these substances in the local community.
All teams designed their own jumpers which was funded in part by the Northern Territory Government, and players receive their jumpers after they have completed health checks at the local health clinic.
Murin Air has also generously donated an off-road 4WD bus to assist Wadeye-based football teams outside of the community travel to play against other teams in their competition such as Palumpa and Peppimenarti.
Connell began working in Wadeye in July 2017 and has since engaged four full time Community Development Program (CDP) workers. These young men are all locals who complete their required 25 hours a week working for the dole program through football related tasks including; line marking ovals, match managing football games, delivering junior football programs and running junior football competitions.
Connell, was put in charge of the first trial program to get locals working for the league in an official capacity.
"Wadeye was the first place we introduced this, and I knew there was a lot of guys wanting to come down and help out but they didn't know how to go about it, or they didn't have the correct platform to do so.
“The guys are learning so much, they probably didn’t realise it was going to involve so much but the community and Wadeye football is all the better for them being willing to get in and get their hands dirty,” Connell said.
The AFLNT CDP program is also currently being rolled out in Groote Eylandt and Galiwinku with plans to expand across the other remote projects in the near future.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has also recognised the great work being done in Wadeye and has decided to fund a second role in the community, focusing solely on junior programs. Connell will work closely with this incoming staff member to ensure the community wide outcomes continue.
AFLNT CEO Stuart Totham said he is very proud of the positive impact football is having on not just Wadeye but other NT remote communities as well.
“We’ve been involved in Wadeye since 2007 when the community rang up and said look we really need football down in the community-we’ve got some problems.
“Football is really entrenched in that community and is such an important part of most if not every remote community. We’ve now got 10 remote development managers (soon to be 11) across eight remote communities throughout the Territory.
Totham explained that it’s about giving local people the opportunity to run their football.
“Football impacts communities in many different ways, from positive benefit on community spirit to being used as a lever to encourage school attendance, promote healthy activity and in some cases crime rates are reduced as a result of football in community,” said Totham.
The AFL Wadeye competition is will be heading into Round 11 after their mid-year break, and is expected to culminate with a grand final in late November or early December - date TBC.
You can keep up to date with all things Wadeye football by following the AFL Wadeye Facebook page.