Indigenous ice hockey team to compete at Arafura Games

Posted April 09, 2019 11:57:59

The driest state on the driest continent might not seem like the obvious place to start an ice hockey team, but for the Kaurna Boomerangs, it has proved the perfect environment to begin.

Key points:

  • The Kaurna Boomerangs will compete in the Arafura Games
  • The team started as part of the Ice Factor program
  • The group was inspired by the American movie The Mighty Ducks

The South Australian team is the nation’s first representative Indigenous ice hockey team — a product of the Ice Factor program which started 14 years ago to help at-risk students stay in school and out of trouble.

Former program participant Shaquille Burgoyne came up with the idea for the Kaurna Boomerangs, inspired by the popular 1990s franchise The Mighty Ducks.

“We’re trying to aim it to get those youth that are always [getting] in trouble to join the team and do something on a weekend or during the weekdays to keep them off the streets and from doing silly stuff,” Burgoyne said.

“I know it’s a bit hard to get away from that sort of lifestyle, but it’s got to be up to you to change, it’s got to be your decision.

“I don’t stand for crime, I’ve got a good record and I’m trying to keep it that way and I don’t want to see young talent go to waste.”

At the end of this month, the team — which takes its Kaurna name from the traditional owners of the Adelaide Plains — will travel to Darwin to compete on an international stage.

The Boomerangs will be the first team to play ice hockey in a number of exhibition matches at the Arafura Games, which begin on April 26.

“I can’t believe that it actually is true, the first Indigenous ice hockey team in Australia,” Burgoyne said.

“When we play and train, we just have fun.

“It just means everything to me, playing for the team knowing that I helped create the team and put the team together.”

Helping at-risk kids stay in school and excel in other areas of life

The Ice Factor program started with a group of 15 students in 2005 and has grown to include almost 300 students from 19 schools.

It is even being incorporated into a South Australian Certificate of Education unit.

Justine Shaw was the first Ice Factor kid and now co-coaches the Boomerangs.

“My mum started this program 15 years ago or so, basically looking at the reasons why I found troubles in school and what gauged my attention,” Shaw said.

“When I was about 10 years old, I started playing ice hockey and all my difficulties at school seemed to even out in terms of focus, energy, even some of my academic stuff, focus, confidence, especially in social aspects.”

The week-long international sporting event in Darwin, which will have representatives from 33 countries, provides a stepping stone for athletes aspiring to represent their countries.

“I was absolutely thrilled that they would have the opportunity to use what they had learnt as a team and have something to look forward to with all of this dedication they had put into it,” Shaw said.

“I definitely see changes in kids from the first time they come to Ice Factor and then following on three months later in terms of respect and behaviour [and] how they speak to people.”

Star power on Boomerangs team for the event

The Boomerangs will play alongside co-coach and captain, Jarrad Chester, the first Indigenous ice hockey player to compete for Australia.

“I’ve played at some pretty high levels, but just to go over and play in an actual Indigenous games, it’s really exciting,” Chester said.

“I actually started watching The Mighty Ducks, I loved the intensity.

“When I first started playing hockey there was hardly any Indigenous players — I’m pretty sure for a good few years I was the only one.

“These guys have come a long way and it means a lot to me.”

Topics: ice-hockey, winter-sports, sport, aboriginal, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, community-and-society, adelaide-5000, sa, australia, nt, darwin-0800

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