Today I pay tribute to the staff and students involved in the South Australian Aboriginal Sports Training Academy. On Thursday 21 October the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee had the opportunity to visit the academy at Para West adult campus. It was my second visit and I continue to be impressed. As shadow minister for both Aboriginal affairs and sport, I take a great interest in anything that advances each of these causes, and this campus is a great thing for both young Aboriginal people and for sport in our state.
The South Australian Aboriginal Sports Training Academy (SAASTA) was launched in 2005, and in 2009 was recognised by the South Australian government as its COAG Indigenous reform of best practice model. The academy seeks to attract young Aboriginal students between 16 and 21 years who demonstrate a commitment to study and a desire to enhance their sporting talents. The aim is to use a sports-focused education and training program to increase the number of young Aboriginal people completing their secondary school education. It also aims to improve pathways to further education and employment, whilst including a young person’s family, culture and community in the whole process.
Essentially SAASTA is a centre for excellence in Indigenous sports and learning. SAASTA is an initiative of the government’s Social Inclusion Unit that caters for students who want to make a career from their sporting pursuits, either as professional athletes or as professionals working in the sporting area. The academy’s vision is learning to play smart. By learning to play smart, young Aboriginal people get the opportunity to achieve their goals and live healthy and successful lives. The academy’s objectives have been developed to help what is one of the most at-risk groups in our society: young Aboriginal people.
As a result of being involved in the program, young people will: be supported to improve literacy and numeracy skills; be supported to achieve in sports at their highest level; be supported to enrol in appropriate subjects to achieve their SACE; be supported to access employment; be supported to access further education opportunities; develop enhanced self-esteem; develop leadership skills and become ambassadors for their community; and gain certificates in areas such as first aid, surf rescue and sports coaching.
The academy staff mentor students through the important final years of their high school education by providing a culturally sensitive education, with a strong focus on health and sport. Importantly, the academy provides opportunities for some statewide events and carnivals. One of these is the Aboriginal Power Cup, which I have spoken about in this place before, and it is certainly a wonderful initiative.
This event has wound up for 2010, and I am sure the participants cannot wait for next year’s event. The event took place in June this year and had close to 300 students from 17 schools participating. Congratulations to all schools that took part in the competition. Other major events include the National Indigenous Under 16 Soccer Festival, the SANFL under 18 female round, and the AFL Rio Tinto talent development program. The academy is open to Aboriginal students in years 10, 11 and 12 who are committed to achieving their SACE.
Whilst our committee visited the Para West campus, members will be pleased to know that there are 11 academy sites located all across South Australia, in both our metropolitan and regional areas. I pay tribute in particular to all the key staff at the campus we visited. The principal is Colleen Abbott. We met with academy liaison Margaret McClounan, teacher Michael O’Donnell, Program Support Officer Phil Pearce and SAASTA officer, Ian Liddy.
I was certainly impressed by the presentation provided on the day, as I am sure were other members of the committee. These young people are very fortunate to have a group of people who care greatly for their welfare and their future. I expect that they will have a bright future because of the valuable time they have spent at the academy. Not often do we see positive programs for at‑risk young people.
The most important thing I want to impress upon members is that not only is this about sport but there is also a heavy focus on education, in particular, numeracy and literacy. It will set up these young people in the years to come. Again, I have to say that it is one of the most positive things I have seen for some time.