If it’s not AFL (Australian Football), it’s basketball, if it’s not basketball it’s volleyball, if it’s not volleyball it’s running. Aboriginal Kids love sports!
Any opportunity indigenous kids are given to kick or run with a ball, they respond to it, often with beaming smiles. The love of sports has lead many young Aboriginal people into various AFL and other sport programs that run throughout the country. The schools in East Arnhem Land especially recognise the potential that is in many Aboriginal Kids and they seek to capitalise on this by holding regular events throughout the region to encourage emerging talent. These events do more than just encouraging the youth, they provide options and activities to keep young kids busy and off the streets where trouble is often just waiting to happen.
Over the many years that MAF has been in Arnhem Land, a vast amount of education-related flights have taken place. The majority of these flights have been to transport teachers, students and supplies from one community to another. Education is something that MAF values, so MAF does what is possible to make these types of flights a priority.
Therefore when the Operations Office in Gove got notice that a big Sports Carnival was to take place in Yirrkala on 19-22 June, the schedule was blocked out in anticipation for an influx of kids from the remote communities…and an influx it was!
Monday 19 June was an early start for MAF Pilot Craig Fulton who arrived at Gove airport before the sun had risen to do his pre-flight checks on VH-MQI (One of MAF's Airvan aircraft). As soon as he was able he took off from Gove and headed towards Ramingining, a 55-minute flight from Gove airport. After arrival and with an efficient turn around on the ground, Craig was back in the air with 5 people and gear on board, heading back to Gove to drop the first load. There was such a vibe of joy as the kids jumped off the plane and chatted and danced around. They were really looking forward to this event.
After a refuel and then all hands on deck loading the aircraft full of freight for the Knigge family, (MAF staff from Holland who have recently moved out to Raminginin) Craig was back in the air to pickup more children and teachers from Ramingining.
Not far from Ramingining, MAF Pilot Raphael Flach flying MAF’s 10 seater aircraft was working hard flying loads of children and teachers from Elcho Island to Yirrkala.
It was not just the pilots and planes that were busy that day, it was the operations staff that barely had a minute to take a break with the constant movement of passengers, phone calls and freight. All in all it was a mammoth effort by the MAF team and by the end of the day 28 people from Ramingining and 29 from Elcho Island were safely in Yirrkala ready for some sporting action.
MAF Operations Manager Roland VanDerVelde gave a sigh of relief when the last large load for the day was safely on the ground and all students and teachers had left the airport. This was only the first part of the process though as the repeat return trips were due to happen two days later!
For those living in Yirrkala a hive of activity was seen over the three days. A real happiness and rich smiles was seen on the kid’s faces, which is not always the case in every day life. The children participated in sporting activities and displayed new shirts that were especially made for the event, with pride. Activities such as athletics, basketball, and football kept the children and teachers busy during the day and throughout the early evenings there was music and fun bonding activities for them all.
Thursday came around quickly and it was time for MAF to be involved in the mass movement of people back to the communities. As the kids arrived at the airport there was a physical tiredness that was evident but the same buzz and vibe that arrived with them on Monday was still there. Obviously this event had been really good!
All in all MAF Pilots flew over 110 passengers for this annual event. It was a noticeable achievement on all levels and hopefully this sports event will have a long-term impact on the lives of the children, schools and communities