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Traditional Indigenous Games for Aussie Kids

Ten years of research by Assistant Professor of Education, Dr Ken Edwards, has culminated in the launch of a new Australian Sports Commission initiative that will enable all Australians to experience traditional Indigenous games.

Dr Edwards reviewed almost every available account of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander games to create Yulunga: Traditional Indigenous Games - a remarkable collection of more than 140 games and activities designed to preserve Indigenous sporting heritage.

“The greatest challenge of the project was to transform the research materials into a practical resource which was acceptable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Dr Edwards said.

The games come from all parts of Australia and the Torres Strait Islands and are now available online, designed to be used in schools, sporting organisations and community groups throughout the country as an educational resource and a guide to inclusive games for all ages.

Yulunga means ‘playing’ in the language of the Kamilaroi (Gamori) people of north-western New South Wales.

This publication provides all Australians with a greater understanding and appreciation of ‘yulunga’ in Indigenous culture, the way it was many thousands of years ago and continues today.

Historically, sport has played a major role in Indigenous society and Yulunga: Traditional Indigenous Games captures activities that have evolved from traditional pastimes.

Many of the original accounts of Indigenous games were recorded during the nineteenth century by explorers, government officials, settlers, scientists and missionaries. This project involved consultation with Indigenous communities nationwide to ensure the activities included were an accurate reflection of Australian Indigenous play culture.

Dr Edwards said it was important to recognise that the Australian play and sport culture is much older than our nation’s 220 years of European settlement.

“This resource recognises the play and games cultures of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies as well as its continuation in a distinct and contemporary form,” he said.

The result is an array of sports from ball to corroboree and water games. Each has background on the origin of the game and its name, plus easy-to-follow tips on how to play.

For example, ‘Waayin’ was derived from the study of animal and bird tracks that was an important part of educating Aboriginal children. In the northern part of the NT, ‘Waayin’ refers to land animals and reptiles with this game involving drawing tracks on the ground and the other players guessing what they might be.

Dr Edwards said the resource is a practical application of knowledge and is already being used successfully in trial schools and health projects.

“One of the benefits seen so far is the sense of pride generated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people playing their ‘own’ games.

“The enthusiastic sharing of the games with other Australians has been a very positive benefit and schools such as Forest Lake State High School in Brisbane are already enthusiastic supporters,” Dr Edwards said.

Yulunga: Traditional Indigenous Games is a collaboration between Bond University, QUT and the Australian Sports Commission and is available free online.

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