The AFL took a big step towards shoring up its production line of talented Aboriginal youth from the Northern Territory with the announcement of a $15 million academy in Darwin on Thursday.
The Federal Government has committed $11m to the Michael Long NT Thunder Learning and Leadership Centre, with $1.5m coming from the AFL and $2.5m from the NT Government.
Federal Minister Simon Crean said $7.5m would come from the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) and $3.5 million through the Aboriginal Benefit Account – which distributes royalties from mining on Aboriginal land.
“This centre is about developing passion for sport but channelling it into life skills to reinforce the importance of education and closing the gap,’” said Crean.
The project was unsuccessful in the first round of RDAF, but the applicants learnt from the feedback, strengthened the partnership and persisted with the project, said Crean, adding: “partnership and persistence have paid dividends.”
The $3.5 million from the Aboriginals Benefit Account will enable the centre to provide a caring and supportive environment for remote Aboriginal students to undertake their studies and experience life in a major urban area.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the AFL, Gillon McLachlan said the Learning and Leadership Centre was a significant development for AFL football in the Territory.
“The Northern Territory has long been a producer of elite talent, along with mass community engagement in football,” McLachlan said.
The Michael Long centre will include state of the art facilities including:
- Swimming pool and recovery facilities;
- Lecture theatres and classrooms; and
- Accommodation for 70.
Long, a former player with the Essendon club and a leading Aboriginal voice in the sport, said the academy will assist young Territorians to become strong role models, having a positive influence on their peers.
“The Learning and Leadership Centre has been my dream for many years, and it will be a place where Territory kids can come to learn in a safe, modern environment but where they will also be immersed in footy, as it is our love of our national sport that unites us all,” Long said.
“The centre will become a vital focal point for young Indigenous Territorians, equipping them with the skills to become leaders.
“I am profoundly grateful for the support provided by the Federal Government, the NT Government, the Aboriginals Benefit Account committee and the AFL, who share my vision and passion for the project.”
Construction on the new centre will begin in coming months, and is scheduled for completion late next year.
Image: Triple M