Maningrida is one of the largest remote communities in the Northern Territory and also produces some large footy passion and talent.
Damian Tuck was living in Canberra when he decided to pack his bags and move to the coastal Arnhem Land town to take on the role of Remote Development Manager. His job was to deliver football programs in the community, but perhaps more importantly, it gave him a new perspective on our first nation’s history and living culture.
“My eyes were opened through my work with AFL Northern Territory (AFLNT) in Maningrida,” Damian said.
“I was in a very fortunate position to learn about some aspects of Indigenous culture.
“It was great to see that culture in Maningrida is important but also that culture and football can work together,” he said.
While living and working in Maningrida, Damian was instrumental in developing the community’s women’s league – a task that had previously proved tricky.
“Even though it started with only a couple of women attending, we got to a point where we were getting close to 50 local women turning up on a Friday night for a game under lights,” he said.
“In the past it has been difficult to get women’s footy up and running in Maningrida but as a committee we were determined to make an impact.”
It is nothing new to say sport is an important community pillar in establishing social cohesion and purpose, but footy in our remote communities means so much more.
“Football is a really significant activity for the kids in Maningrida and it was something I probably didn’t appreciate until I started to work in the community,” Damian explained.
“Because of the popularity of footy in remote communities we can certainly utilise it as a vehicle to assist with a whole bunch of social issues – getting kids to school, providing a safe and happy environment for the kids to reach their potential both on and off the field, health, fitness, being a leader, playing fairly and pathways to talent programs.”
“The kids are naturally talented, athletic and totally drawn to our game – it’s a perfect fit.”
AFLNT Maningrida Remote Community Trainee Juan Darwin who is a Burarra Gorryindi man
quickly became good friends with Damian during his time in the town.
“I started working with Damian and we started to connect and our friendship got stronger and stronger,” Juan explained.
“Damian became a really good friend of mine.”
Juan helps with managing the senior male and female footy competitions, school and youth based programs and played a big part in Damian’s process of learning and appreciating aboriginal culture. He soon became Damian’s go to person for advice and information about community business.
“I used to take him out hunting and sometimes I helped him out to explain what our culture is,” Juan said.
“When Damian would go out bush I would explain to him things like ceremony and how there would be road blocks, so he would know to call me to try find out if the road is open and whether it was ok to drive through.”
The pair grew a mutual respect for one another, and when coupled with their strong friendship the duo left an undeniable mark on the Maningrida football community. What left its biggest mark on Damian though from his time in the Top End was the power of learning and staying connected to country.
“What stuck with me the most and had the most impact on me was that the students were their most happy and their most engaged in those cultural learning environments,” Damian said.
Damian has now returned to Canberra and takes with him a special understanding of the Maningrida way of life backed by invaluable stories and experiences he now shares with friends and family.
“I’m so thankful for that opportunity to better understand some of the 65 000 year history that I was living and working in.”
The NTFL Indigenous Round coincides with NAIDOC week to earmark an important time to recognise Aboriginal culture and history. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have made an insurmountable contribution to the game in the Territory and is all the more rich and better for it.
Across Round 7 of the 2020/21 NTFL season, AFLNT will celebrate our nation’s first people through a number of initiatives.
Friday 13 November
• AFL NAIDOC Round in Groote Eylandt
• Angurugu, Umbakumba and Alyangula
• An evening of local footy and celebrations including a barbecue, music and kids activities
Saturday 14 November
• Wanderers and Darwin Buffaloes go head to head to play for the second annual Nungalinya Cup
• Richard Fejo will deliver a moving welcome to country to rightfully and respectfully acknowledge the Larrakia people
• Football great Mark Motlop will present the game medals post-match and award the Nungalinya cup to the winning team