Approximately 300 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs lies Yuendumu, one of the larger remote Indigenous communities in Central Australia.
This past long weekend the town came to life to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Yuendumu Sports Carnival.
It is the longest-running Indigenous sports carnival in the remote Central Australia region, dating back further than the 1967 Referendum where Australians overwhelmingly voted in favour of changing the Constitution so that Aboriginal Australians could be included in the Census/population determinations and allow the Commonwealth to make laws for Aboriginal people, thus putting an end to state policies that had seen Aboriginal peoples’ dispossession, oppression and alienation.
In 2019 a total of 17 men's teams took part in the Carnival and eight women's teams also entered in what was only the second year of having a women's competition.
The competing teams came from other remote Indigenous communities both in the NT and just over the state borders; Aputula, Balgo, Kintore, Koprilya, Lajamanu, Laramba, Mount Allan, Ntaria, Nyirripi, Papunya, Santa Teresa, Ti Tree, Willowra and of course, Yuendumu, who was represented by two teams in the men's and women's draw. The teams from the Aputula community (Finke) travelled the furthest, a massive 755 kilometres to Yunedumu.
The Carnival was also a celebration of Yuendumu’s rich culture, artwork, dance and history and lived up to the "Bush Olympics" theme by having components of football, basketball and softball. There was also a car show to boot.
In addition to the senior football competition, there was lots of Auskick fun and games enjoyed by the youngsters who had joined in on the festivities.
Big crowds flocked to the iconic red dirt footy oval of Yuendumu every day but the atmosphere went up a notch in Tuesday's grand finals.
The women's decider was played between Santa Teresa and Lajamanu with the women being welcomed onto the field with a guard of honour, the first time they've been bestowed this privilege which is usually reserved for the men’s grand finalists.
In a highly skilled game, Santa Teresa led from start to end, running out 3.3.21 to 1.1.7 winners.
In the Men's Grand Final, the Papunya Eagles came up against the fan favourites, the Yuendumu Magpies after the home side won their last match of the round-robin just to make the finals.
From there the Magpies marched on, winning three sudden-death finals, including knocking off the top-placed Lajamanu Red Legs with a goal after the siren in the Preliminary Final.
The Eagles also did not drop a game going into the grand final, playing one less after winning a Qualifying Final against Ti Tree.
It was Yuendumu who kicked the first goal in the big dance, on its way to taking a 13-point lead at quarter-time. The second quarter saw Papanya outscore the Magpies by a point, both teams kicking three goals for the term. The Eagles narrowed the margin by another point in the third quarter but went into the deciding term down by 11 points and though they staged a comeback they were unable to conjure a fairytale finish.
In the end, Yuendumu 8.6.54 defeated Papunya 7.9.51 and the locals celebrated the victory right throughout the community.
For really unique content from the weekend, be sure to check out the Remote Central Australia Football Facebook page.