We would like to acknowledge the Larrakia people and their elders past, present and emerging. We thank them for allowing us to come onto their land to have fun and to learn.
Last month students from Ngukurr and Utopia communities attended the National Indigenous Tennis Carnival in Darwin at the Darwin International Tennis Centre.Tennis Australia and Tennis NT put on an amazing event for these students, they were well fed, offered great accomodation and given some awesome things to take home and got to meet other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tennis players from every state across Australia.
After the long drive from Ngukurr, and a plane flight from Alice Springs for Utopia (for many of them – their first ever plane trip and first time seeing a beach!), we arrived in Darwin at the Darwin International Tennis Centre for the carnival. Day one was full of getting welcomed to the Carnival and receiving our team gift-bags with our playing tops! We also had a few of our students partake in the Ball-kid trials where they learnt how to become Ball-kids for the Australian Open, with a few being chosen to go to the next stage of the try-outs. We then had a delicious dinner, followed by the Cultural Exchange event. This event gave each of the teams the chance to share about their culture and their country. Some of the teams made beautiful art pieces, shared special stories and told us about where they had come from, it was especially interesting to hear from the team from Tasmania! Our students shared their cultural exchanges to everyone and after a long day we set off to the hotel.
Day two started with a yummy, filling breakfast then followed with the start of the Cultural off-court activities. The students had an amazing time getting to understand more about tennis and improve their skills, but also participating in cultural activities such as painting, spear throwing, weaving and some extra fun activities like laughing yoga. After lunch the students from Ngukurr and Utopia took part in the Hotshots competition of the Carnival where the students play on smaller courts with modified equipment such as smaller and lighter racquets and less bouncy balls. This set up allows the students to play an easier game that is fun and allows them to progress. The teams faced off against other NT teams from Tiwi Islands, Palmerston and got to meet other Hotshots teams from Jabiru, Wooliana, Wurrumiyanga and Queensland! The students played 4 rounds that consisted of 4 hotshots games to see who would end up on top! With the music pumping it was hard not to dance along whilst playing. After a long and fun afternoon of playing tennis, a few of the students continued their try-outs to become ball kids and then it was time for dinner! After dinner the students got to experience one of the highlights of the carnival, a performance from Barkaa a Malyangapa and Barkindji female rapper. She put on an amazing performance and the students were up and dancing and went back to the hotel with sleepy faces.
Day three started again with a yummy breakfast and was followed by the last hotshot matches and after morning tea the Hotshots Finals! Congratulations to team Queensland that took out the Hotshots Competition. Our Ngukurr and Utopia teams did such an amazing job and have made us so proud with their determination and resilience, but also with their kindness, each of our players will head home having made friends from all of the different state teams. After lunch we had a very exciting afternoon at the Leanyer Water Park where we played in the pools and slid down the massive slides, it was hard to get the players to say goodbye to the waterpark when it was time to leave! We headed back to the Darwin International Tennis centre to watch the Under 14 and Under 18 Finals, watching these players was inspiring, they played so well under the really hot conditions. Ngukurr were lucky enough to see an old teacher from Ngukurr who was umpiring the finals, it was nice to connect with those we have known for so long. After the finals had finished, the Matildas were in their clash against France, in that epic penalty shoot-out and once everyone was happy with the Matildas win we could finally head back to the hotel for our last night.
Short and sweet Day four was the last morning with our last delicious breakfast. Ngukurr departed early for their long drive back to Ngukurr whilst the rest of the teams watched the Individual Event Presentations and Closing Ceremony. A big thank you to Team NSW who gifted both our Ngukurr and Utopia teams with the book ‘Little Ash’, our players had a great time reading it on their journeys home.
Thank you to everyone who allowed our teams to take part in this incredible event. Thank you to Tennis NT and Tennis Australia for putting on the event and inviting our players to come, as well as making our players feel supported, comfortable and very well looked after during the carnival.
Thank you to Ngukurr school for allowing us to take our players and supporting us with fuel and food for the journeys to and from the carnival.
We hope that this partnership with Tennis NT and WANTA continues to be strong and positive for the coming years.
Written by Indigo Drendel, Director Ngukurr Academy.