A NUMBER of Lake Illawarra area teenagers will honour their Aboriginal heritage when they represent the Dharawal nation at the upcoming PCYC NSW Nations of Origin rugby league sevens tournament.
The Dharawal nation will be one of 23 Aboriginal nations from throughout NSW represented at the tournament in Dubbo in July.
Open to both boys and girls’ sides, the tournament is in its second year and is expected to involve more than 800 competitors.
While bragging rights are on offer to the winners, PCYC NSW has a number of messages it aims to promote through the tournament.
“One of the things it does is give the kids involved a chance to represent their nation and show the pride they have for their culture and heritage,” Dharawal team co-ordinator Rose Caspero said.
“It’s also a big part of the PCYC’s push to promote reconciliation in the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities and promote the Closing the Gap initiative.
“Sport is probably the best way we have of engaging with young people.
‘‘It’s definitely one of the best ways to bring a community together as well, so it’s a great way to get the message out.”
The tournament is also used to promote education - players have to meet minimum school attendance requirements.
“Anybody who wants to play has to have a school attendance rate of 75per cent, which has to be verified by their school,’’ Ms Caspero said.
‘‘The tournament is something the kids really want to play in, so it gives them that extra incentive to go to school.
“There’re other benefits from the tournament as well. Last year we had officers from the Lake Illawarra Local Area Command involved in the coaching side of things and that was a really great way of breaking down some of the barriers between the kids and the police.”
The Dharawal nation covers much of the Illawarra and the two teams representing it reflect that.
“So far we’ve got 10 players registered for both the boys and girls’ sides, and they come from across the Illawarra. There’s kids from the Lake Illawarra area as well as Wollongong and other areas as well.”