Spark Health is still in its first year, but has already kicked some serious goals.
From running a health and fitness program at Ravenhall prison, supporting the expansion of the junior Fitzroy Stars Aboriginal Football Club, to running education programs in schools on Aboriginal sport.
Recently Sport and Recreation Victoria ran an Indigenous games training session for Spark Health, refreshing facilitators on running Aboriginal Games events, coaching on the events themselves, and finally presenting them with a Traditional Indigenous Games kit bag.
The session was facilitated by Kate Corrigan and Peter Montga from Sport and Recreation Victoria’s Aboriginal Sport and Recreation Program.
Kate is passionate about the role the Aboriginal sporting events and participation can play in helping people connect.
“When you’re with all those people participating in Traditional Games, you feel like you’re coming home,” she said.
Laura Thompson is the Managing Director of Spark Health and is equally enthusiastic.
“Using sport as a way to communicate history is a great way of getting in, of helping people connect with our ancestors.”
Sarah Sheridan is Head of Programs for the organisation and says Traditional Games are a way of celebrating and learning about culture while enjoying the benefits of getting active.
Both Laura and Sarah came from the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, and set up Spark Health so they could follow their passion for integrating sport and health.
‘Apart from the cultural and community benefits, sport is also a really important vehicle for health and wellbeing,” said Sarah.
A lot of Spark’s effort is targeting school children, designing programs for the early years, primary and secondary schools.
The team now plans to train secondary school students in Aboriginal games, so they can be incorporated in to curriculum activities.
There’s also work on developing a “fitness in the park program” incorporating Aboriginal sports in fitness workouts run by local councils.
“That way we can introduce Aboriginal sports to non-Indigenous people – they can participate and learn in a fun and approachable way and get fit at the same time” said Laura.
Aboriginal games, like many Olympic events, were based on skills that people needed for hunting, gathering and survival, whilst other games were just played for fun.
One of the most famous and emblematic Aboriginal sports is Marngrook where a stitched possum skin ball is kicked from player to player and participants leap to take high marks.
There is an active debate on the link between the game and the development of Australian Rules football, as the man credited with founding our game lived and played with Aboriginal communities in his youth.
Sarah and Laura both agree that Marngrook is an important symbol for Aboriginal sports and having several Marngrook balls custom made has been instrumental in helping them get kids to identify and connect.
“Just holding the balls is engaging, and then finding out the stories behind them is a really powerful tool,” said Laura. “It’s amazing how it settles even the most restless kids.”
Using the skills and tools Sport and Recreation Victoria has provided, Spark Health is now organising a “Totally Trad” (Traditional Indigenous Games) Tournament to be held during NAIDOC week in Reservoir on the 8th of July.
They will combine the best of Aboriginal Games with other initiatives to create a celebration of Aboriginality and competition.
Laura summed it up.
“It about using Aboriginal people and games as ambassadors for health and wellbeing.”
For more information about SPV Traditional Indigenous Training
For more information about Spark Health and to book us to deliver a Traditional Games Session visit Spark Health or email firstname.lastname@example.org