Aboriginal sports events

Aboriginal people love their sport. Here's a list of popular Aboriginal sporting events across Australia.

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Sport events in Queensland

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders National Basketball Association Championships are held in Cairns since 2005.
  • Bill Coolburra Memorial Shield, held on Palm Island in far north Queensland, honours Bill 'kookaburra' Coolburra, a respected Elder and Australian Army Vietnam War veteran.
  • Cairns All Blacks carnival is held in October.
  • Charters Towers Indigenous Cricket Carnival (Goldfield Ashes) is the world's biggest cricket carnival which began in 1948 with just 6 teams. In 2008 more than 200 teams and about 500 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander players competed.
  • Dan Ropeyarn Memorial Rugby League Carnival takes place at Bamaga, a small community 40kms south of the tip of Cape York in far north Queensland.
  • First Contact Sports and Cultural Festival started in 1992 and is one of Australia's largest Aboriginal events. It brings together the best Aboriginal touch footballers and is held in Brisbane and was founded by Robbie Williams. Many market stalls offer products art and craft of Aboriginal businesses.
  • Foley Shield started in 1948 and is held in far north Queensland with teams from the Torres Strait and Cape York.
  • Groote Eylandt Football League (GEFL) wet season competition consists of 12 rounds, two finals, and includes a month's break over the Christmas period.
  • Henaway Cup is an annual golf event founded by Pastor Les Henaway. Aboriginal and non-Indigenous contestants are allowed.
  • Indigenous Football Festival started in 2009 in Townsville with 16 teams from Aboriginal communities throughout Australia.
  • Indigenous Reconciliation Rugby League Carnival started in 2009 in Rockhampton and involves sixteen rugby league teams.
  • Rainforest Cup is an Indigenous cricket carnival held at Tully which is regarded Australia's wettest town.
  • Toowoomba NAIDOC Golf Classic is an 18-hole golf tournament which takes place annually in southern Queensland.
  • Vern and Frank Daisy Cup Rugby League carnival is held in Townsville every year in February. The carnival started in 2006 and is named after two great Rugby League footballers to come out of north Queensland.
  • Woorabinda Pastoral Company Indigenous Reconciliation Rugby League Carnival consists of a 16-team men's Rugby League knockout and an 8-team women's touch football competition. The carnival started in 2008 and aims to initiate reconciliation through a celebration of Indigenous culture, arts and sport.

Sport events in New South Wales

Logo: Ella-7 Rugby union carnival
  • David Peachey Foundation Aboriginal Rugby League Carnival is held annually in Dubbo.
  • Dunheved Aboriginal Golf Championship. The first championship was held in October 1979 at the Dunheved course at St Marys in Sydney's west. It's a 36-hole medal/strokeplay event.
  • Elders Olympics (Elders Olympic Games). Elders Olympics focus on staying active and connected with friends, family and culture. They are held at various places across NSW, for example Lake Macquarie, Miller, Tempe and Sydney. The Elders Olympic Games have become one of the largest gatherings of Aboriginal people in the country, often seeing hundreds of Elders, with many describing it as a "modern day corroborree" , an "Elders’ knockout" or cultural gathering. Participants need to be over 50 years old to "qualify" and play traditional Aboriginal games such as Gorri and Kee An, as well as non-traditional games including Quoits, Tunnel Ball, bean bag throwing and Relay. Some games are modified to suit the Elders (e.g. there is no running involved). The winners will be the hosts for the next Olympics. The first Eora Elders Olympics were held in 2015.

To me, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever gone to as an Elder.

— Elaine Binge, Inverell Elder
  • Ella 7s Rugby union carnival, which started as an annual event in 2009 and is staged in Coffs Harbour.
  • Newcastle Koori netball tournament started in 1999 and attracts over 200 players from all across New South Wales.
  • NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival is one of the biggest Indigenous gatherings in Australia (see box below for more information).
  • NSW Indigenous Athletics Championships is a fun, safe and competitive environment for athletes aged 5-21 years. The event also offers educational, craft and career information stalls.

The annual Aboriginal knockout is very important and because we've lost touch with parts of our culture, it has in some ways replaced the corroboree as a meeting place.

— David Liddiard, Aboriginal AFL player

Koori Knockout trivia

  • The knockout is held every year on the October long weekend.
  • The traditional title of the event is the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout, although it’s nicknamed ‘the Koori Knockout’.
  • The idea for the knockout out was first posed in a chat between six blokes at the Clifton Hotel in Sydney. Organisers created the knockout as an alternative more accessible to Aboriginal players than the state rugby league.
  • The first Koori Knockout match was held in 1970 at the Camdenville Oval in Erskineville with 8 participating teams. The Sydney teams trained at Redfern and Alexandria Ovals.
  • Until 1980, most of the Koori Knockout games were held in Sydney. Now the winning teams gains the right to hold the next knockout, and since then, the majority of the matches have been held in towns all over NSW, including Dubbo, Armidale, Moree, Walgett, Bourke and Nambucca Heads.
  • It is estimated that in 2015, each visitor generated an additional $148 per day for the local area. The total benefit was around $6.6 million.
  • Regarded as one of the biggest sports gatherings of Aboriginal people in the world, the Koori Knockout features over 100 teams, across the men’s, women’s and junior tournament, competing for the top prize.

Source: ABC

Sport events in Northern Territory

  • Barunga Festival: One of the Territory's biggest annual festivals over the June long weekend in the Jawoyn community, about 80km south-east of Katherine. Besides sport the festival offers cultural events like spear-throwing, music, dance and cultural activities.
  • Dingo Cup cricket competition, held since 2003.
  • Imparja Cup is Australia's National Indigenous Cricket Carnival held each February in Alice Springs, central Australia. Originally founded in 2001 by custodians Shane Franey and Ross Williams as a family match between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, the Imparja Cup is now a national celebration of cricket and Aboriginal culture.
  • Ngurratjuta Lightning Carnival takes place in Alice Springs every year since 1979.

Sport events in South Australia

  • Lord's Taverners Indigenous cricket carnival is an annual event with teams from all across the state.
  • South Australian Aboriginal Cultural and Sport Festival is held at Moonta (150km north-west of Adelaide) in September. The 2.5-day festival attracts a crowd of several thousand people.

Sport events in Tasmania

  • Generation Cup, held since 1995 in Launceston is a battle between young and old teams of netball, softball and football.

Sport events in the Torres Strait

  • Badu Island of Origin is an annual Rugby League contest which started in 1985 and is staged on Badu Island.
  • Seaswift Island of Origin Series Rugby League Carnival, held for three days on Thursday Island, offers one of the richest prize moneys of an all-blacks carnival in Queensland. 2009 saw the 24th carnival.
  • Torres Strait Island of Origin Rugby League carnival: Held over the Queen's Birthday long weekend in June, usually on Thursday Island or Badu. 2010 sees the 25th anniversary of the Rugby League carnival.
  • Zenadth Kes Cup is a Rugby League carnival held on Thursday Island. The cup is 'one of the biggest events on the Torres Strait Islands sporting and social calendar' . Many teams reach Thursday Island by powered dinghies.

Sport events in Western Australia

  • NAIDOC Week Netball Carnival is held each year in Perth. A total of more than 40 teams compete.

Australia-wide sport events

  • Aboriginal Power Cup (APC): The Aboriginal Power Cup was created in April 2008 and targets Aboriginal students. They must attend at least 70% of their classes to attend this sporting event.
  • National Indigenous Golf Championship started in 2006 and is staged at changing locations across Australia.
  • National Indigenous Golf Tournament was co-founded in 1979 in Victoria by Syd Jackson. The tournament is held annually at changing locations in Australia.

A sports carnival on Palm Island was an alcohol and drug-free event. Organisers asked police to breath-test players for alcohol "to ensure that no players had any alcohol reading and if they did, they would not have been allowed to play" .

The Imparja Cup

The mighty MacDonnell Ranges watch the action unfold
the Imparja Cup is under way what a sight to behold.

The first people of this nation showcasing their talent and flare
playing with fire and hunger in a spirit that's always fair.

For tens of thousands of years ceremonies held at this place
now a different type of performance enlivens this sacred space.

A game rich with tradition bound by chance and skill
a truthful form of expression the ultimate test of one's will.

Towering straight sixes elegant cover drives
lion-hearted bowling spells defying the heat and flies.

The audience comprises many different mobs
cheering out their lungs proud of where they're from.

This festival of cricket a jewel in the calendar year
a celebration of our beloved game and the cultures that were first here.

Poem by Jonathan Hill, Old Erowal Bay, NSW . Read more Aboriginal poems.

National Indigenous Games?

In 2008 plans were underway for annual National Indigenous Games, a move initiated by the Australian Indigenous Games Foundation (AIGF) which was founded in May 2008. The games were to alternate between Darwin, Alice Springs, Cairns and Townsville.

The main aim of the games was to build self-esteem and confidence. AIGF President Bob McCullough said that "the Australian Indigenous Games will contribute significantly to the development of Indigenous communities, encouraging young people to strive for excellence and develop skills in life and sport. This will develop into pride in the community and pride in being Indigenous."

However, the plans never eventuated and the first games, scheduled for 2010, did not happen.

Story: Time and tide wait for no...player

Mother nature plays an important part in the Seaswift Island of Origin Rugby League series, with many players and supporters travelling to the host island in outboard-powered dingies.

Rough seas can prevent some from getting there, but time and tide waits for no-one either.

Some players and supporters had motored over for the carnival, but their return was delayed on the day after the carnival because of a low tide.

The men ended up pushing their boat towards the water not far from the oval. They managed to get the boat into the sea and headed off on the 40km homeward journey.


View article sources (9)

[1] 'Going for gold again at the Aboriginal Elders Olympics', YouTube video by NITV News, 2/5/2017
[2] [2a] 'Aboriginal Elders Olympics, a time to pay respects and meet old friends', NITV News 6/4/2016
[3] 'Century of greatness', Koori Mail 419 p.94
[4] 'An armchair guide to Koori Knockout 2015', NITV 1/10/2015
[5] 'Footy fever hits TI', Koori Mail 439 p.34
[6] ''Excuse me Sir, will you blow into this device?'', Koori Mail 516 p.80
[7] 'The Imparja Cup', readers' letters, Koori Mail 513 p.23
[8] 'Games plan forges ahead', Koori Mail 441 p.78
[9] 'Tide waits for no-one', Koori Mail 453 p.93

Cite this page

Korff, J 2020, Aboriginal sports events, <>, retrieved 25 July 2024

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