UAA providing indigenous pathways

The Central Coast Academy of Sport (CCAS), in partnership with Underwriting Agencies Australia (UAA) has developed the Indigenous Talent Identification Program for athletes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent designed to encourage an active lifestyle and provide assistance in advancing opportunities in sport.

For five years, UAA has been sponsoring the program which aims to create pathways for indigenous children who may not have had the opportunity to get scholarships into the Academies of Sport.

A Talent Identification Day is held at the academies where 22 athletes are identified from a total of over a hundred athletes. They are identified for full scholarships which are funded by UAA and they then receive the best of coaching in their chosen sport. This will mean that with 6 Academies of Sport there will be 132 athletes each and every year receiving scholarships which they may not have previously.

It is a program that Michael ‘Murf ’ Murphy, UAA group chief executive officer is passionate about.

“Our ultimate goal is to identify people from the program who are wanting further education. Let’s say they want to study Construction Management at the University of Newcastle, UAA will provide the individual an internship which will avoid them racking up a huge HECS debt or avoid working at a fast food outlet at the weekends. This will enable them to continue with their sporting endeavours. UAA can help support them through their educational endeavours while they are studying construction. The internship will enable them to see the ‘real world’, when they visit a construction site and can see firsthand what things look like when they’ve gone wrong,” he said.

UAA has been supporting the program for five years and one of the major reasons for getting involved is because UAA writes a significant amount of its business in Regional Australia.

“As part of our charter, we have always had the best interests of youth, particularly dis-affected youth to heart, and we saw this as a way of giving back to Regional Australia and to our First Nations People.

“We are confident that we will also be introducing the program with the North Coast Academy of Sport, which is in the Kempsey and Coffs Harbour region and the Western Region Academy of Sport which covers Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo. This is a key region for us because we cover so much equipment in this area and we will also be working with the Southern Sports Academy which is the Wagga region,” said Murphy.

“Our Brisbane and Western Australian offices have both agreed to take on indigenous interns as well. One of the issues facing us with the program is longevity, we are concerned that some of the interns will lose enthusiasm for the program and dropout.

“Our approach with internships is to provide individuals with a
career path which requires discipline. Extreme discipline is required to be an elite athlete and it’s the same for an education. Unfortunately, within the indigenous community there is a high fall off rate between year 10 and year 12 and going to university.

“UAA also Supports the Bamarra initiative /Dubbo hub and with this program they visit the local schools in Dubbo and teach them business skills like how to buy a computer, how to drive, how to write a resume. We support this program as well, as do a number of our broker partners,” he said.

Murphy goes on to describe how the Talent Identification Day works and how talented youngsters are spotted.

“Using the Central Coast event as an example, the Talent Identification Day attracts 100 + youngsters from the surrounding schools across the Central Coast. These sporting youngsters are identified by their Aboriginal Liaison Officers who encourage them to attend. To attend, the youngsters must have parental permission and have to be attending school.

“On the day, there are a number of stations which focus on the different sports offered in the program and at each of these stations there is an expert on the sport. The Sydney Swans, for example, will be present at the AFL station and each of the experts will identify the talent, both boys and girls. Quite frequently one kid will be identified by the four sports because they are outstanding. The twenty two scholarships are then given to these chosen athletes. The process starts at the schools with 100 + youngsters selected and from this 100 +, twenty two are offered scholarships,” said Murphy.

Murphy is passionate about the reasons for wanting to get involved in the program.

“We all see the missed opportunities with today’s youth and there are lots of people with good hearts and best intentions but unless you get in and have a go, best intentions don’t amount to much and nothing will change. ‘Creating Pathways’ for our youth is today’s term and it’s true, they need to be able to see what steps they need to take. We are not just talking about indigenous youth here we are talking about all youth.

“On the Central Coast for example, and in Australia in general, we have one of the highest suicide rates in the world for young men between 18 and 25. Why? Because they can’t see where they are headed. They’ve dropped out of school so they are poorly educated, they can’t get a job and they don’t have a car, what chance do they have? Some people need a little more guidance than others,” he said.

Ian ‘Moose’ Robilliard is the managing director for the CCAS. He has been awarded an OAM for his work, predominantly in sport and youth sport in particular. He played basketball for Australia and coached the Sydney Kings. Murf and Moose played rugby against and with each other so the idea of getting Moose involved came via Murf as both have a keen understanding of the important lessons sport can and does provide.

“We were sitting around one night and we came up with the internship concept, I took it to Moose and said we’ve got the funds and passion, you’ve got the facility and the know how to pull it all together. That’s how UAA got involved and we’ve obviously refined the processes over the last five years. Each Academy is independently run, which allows for incredible flexibility and speed to adjust a program if required. Moose also played for the Newcastle Falcons and that’s how we began working with the Hunter Academy of Sport,” said Murphy.

“In late April the Regional Academies of Sport staged the Your Local Clubs Academy Games, an event where all the academies across NSW come together and compete against each other in a ‘mini Olympics’ style event. The other academies were there, they’d heard about the program and they were all keen to be involved, particularly the North Coast where areas like Coffs and Kempsey have a great need for the program, so on that backdrop and the work done in regional NSW we are working with North Coast, Northern Inland, Southern Sports Academy and will continue our growth strategy with the Central Coast and Hunter Academies of Sport.” he said.

Ian Robilliard the Chairman of the Regional Academies of Sport (RAS) and Managing Director of the Central Coast Academy said of the support provided by UAA.

“The RAS network is very unique in Australian sport, it is currently a collective of nine independently operated organisations who’s reach throughout regional NSW is considerable, indeed this reach is unmatched. In addition, two government operated academies make the RASi number eleven.

“Many organisations think Regional Academies of Sport are totally driven around the delivery of sporting programs and while that’s important, we also do much more than that. Indeed, the RAS ‘More Than Sport Strategy’ provides a very clear focus on what is possible outside of our sport programs that help deliver work ready young adults across regional NSW. The fact UAA are embarking on this strategy with the North Coast Academy of Sport, Northern Inland Academy of Sport, Western Region Academy of Sport and the Southern Sports Academy provides access to many major cities and towns spread across regional NSW,” he said.

Towns and regions that will benefit by the coverage of UAA’s commitment to the Regional Academy network include (but not limited too); Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Ballina, Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Cootamundra, Coonabarabran, Deniliquin, Dubbo, Glenn Innes, Grafton, Griffith, Gundagai, Gunnedah, Inverell, Kempsey, Kyogle, Lithgow, Lismore, Moree, Mullumbimby, Murwillumbah, Orange, Port Macquarie, Tamworth, Tweed Heads and Wagga Wagga.

The following comments from the respective CEO’s of the various regional Academies provide another important view on the support provided by UAA.

Mark Calverley CEO Southern Sports Academy (SSA) said, “We know that through holistic programming, sport can be powerful and transformative. We are looking forward to partnering with UAA with the aim of the Southern Sports Academy (SSA) improving the opportunities that exist within our local Indigenous communities”.

Candice Boggs, CEO Western Region Academy of Sport (WRAS), commented, “Thanks to the support provided by UAA, WRAS will launch its inaugural Indigenous athlete program, a program that will provide opportunities, both on and off the sporting field, to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who reside within the WRAS catchment region, Wiradjuri Country. We’re pleased to partner with UAA and look forward to working with them as we deliver this program in 2021 and beyond.”

D’Arcy Van den Bossche CEO North Coast Academy of Sport (NCAS) had this to say: “From a North Coast perspective, we average nearly double the amount of Indigenous people in our communities compared to the State and Country, and if you look at one of our major towns, Kempsey, that number is around four times the State and National averages. Couple this with the fact 10 of our 12 Local Government Areas sit under the national median of the Social-Economic Index for Australia (SEIFA) and four of those LGA’s have a SEIFA Index score that places them in the most disadvantaged 20 per cent of regions across Australia, North Coast communities represent a brilliant opportunity for a dedicated organisation such as UAA to support and develop the next crop of athletes who would benefit most”.

James Cooper CEO Northern Inland Academy of Sport (NIAS) confirmed, “UAA is the backbone of the new Indigenous program NIAS will be delivering. Our region is flush with talented Indigenous athletes and with thanks to UAA, we now have the capacity to support a host of these athletes through our Academy programs. The UAA NIAS Women’s Rugby League Program will feature 22 women from across New England/ North West NSW.”

Brett O’Farrell CEO Hunter Academy of Sport (HAS) said, “To have this new level of investment and support behind the Academy to now identify & educate our young Awabakal Hunter sportspeople is something
that will positively change our athlete recruitment for years to come. It’s a program we are passionate about and cannot wait to see the results across regional NSW.”

UAA is working hard to acknowledge and become involved in the heritage and history of Australia, says Murphy.

“With every event we hold, we acknowledge our First Nation People with an Acknowledgement to country. This acknowledgment is reflected on the website and the indigenous land UAA premises sit on is also acknowledged. We have acknowledged this by creating work uniforms featuring indigenous art. You only have to look to our neighbour New Zealand to see how it acknowledges and appreciates it indigenous Maori culture and Australia is finally acknowledging its First Nation People in a similar manner, and we are going to play our part.

“We know a number of the crane owners identify as being indigenous, so we will be encouraging students
to study construction, engineering or business management. This will provide a practical understanding of how our insurance business works in these industry sectors.

“We all know sectors of the insurance industry are facing the difficulties of an ageing population and over the next 5-10 years, we are going to see an awful lot of experience lost as a large percentage of the work force moves into retirement. We hope this program will help generate new blood for the industry. Providing pathways into employment into the construction and crane sectors is important but there are also many parts of the insurance industry which are facing the challenges of an ageing work force and this includes broking,” said Murphy.

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