The 50th annual National Aboriginies and Islanders Day Observance Organisation Committee (NAIDOC) week is approaching July 8 – 15, 2007.NAIDOC is an organisation that celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people. Australia’s Indigenous community has a strong presence at all levels of endeavour in the sport and has a proud history of participation and achievement in the game.From current Indigenous Australian World Cup champions Bo De La Cruz (Open Women’s) and Phil Gyemore (Open Men’s) and a host of outstanding up and coming Youth Indigenous players including Ricky Morris (NSW), Jordan Ahsam (NT), and Jess Shaw (QLD), to the “Battle of the States” that showcases the best Indigenous talent from NSW and Queensland annually at the First Contact Cultural Festival, Indigenous Touch Football is on the rise.The NSO Indigenous Sporing Development Program that connects Indigenous people (usually from remote communities) with opportunities to participate in the sport, Australia’s Indigenous community continues to play a prominent role in the development and expansion of the sport.In 2007, Touch Football Australia has been working hard to establish a National Indigenous Advisory Committee to help steer Indigenous Touch efforts at all levels of endeavour from grassroot to Elite level, so the growth, pathways, and participation opportunities for Indigenous Australians will continue to increase.NAIDOC’s work is focussed annually in the designated week, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the achievements of indigenous people and other associated issues. There are a range of events occurring nationally to celebrate the week. Poster competitions, AFL Auskick programs, netball galas, and family fun days have all been scheduled. In the Australian Capital Territory, plans are well advanced for the showcase week for indigenous achievement. Maurice Walker is the Chairperson of the Canberra and District NAIDOC Corporation and has been busy organising a golf day, Chief Minister’s flag raising ceremony, functions for elders and the annual NAIDOC ball. Another key event to celebrate the week is a Touch Football competition. Touch Football is in its fourth year of involvement in the ACT’s NAIDOC celebrations. It has been growing rapidly since first being established. Walker said Touch Football was a great activity for inclusion in the week of celebration. “It’s a showcase of Indigenous talent in relation to Touch Football. We try to make sure in organising events for the week that we promote Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders in our community. Obviously sporting events really draw attention to the talented people as well as involving people from the wider community,” Walker said. The Touch Football carnival is being run by the ACT Department of Workplace Relations.Cris Castro is from the Indigenous Employment and Business Group within the Department and is coordinating the event, which will be on Wednesday July 11, 2007, in Deakin. Castro has been involved with the NAIDOC organising committee for six years, and has had a major hand facilitating the growth of the Touch Football event. Last year 11 teams were involved. This year 20 teams will take part from different sections of the public service. The event will be sponsored by the Indigenous Australian Public Service Employee Network, a support network for indigenous public service staff. The Touch Football competition has been promoted through Indigenous networks in order to get Indigenous people involved, but it is open for anyone to apply. While there were more teams that wanted to be involved, the number was limited by time and the amount of sponsorship provided. “We will certainly look to expand again next year. This is the biggest we’ve ever had it. Last year we had 11 teams, so we’ve almost doubled the size of the competition this year and we just want to see how that works. If we want to expand again we would need to look at what other sponsorship is available,” Castro said. Increased sponsorship would allow the Touch Football section of the NAIDOC week to include even more people. An application for funding from the Australian Sports Commission is one option. Touch Football ACT is providing support through aid in coordinating the day. The organisation will help with layout as well as supplying equipment, facilities, referees and ground controllers. At the end of the competition there will be a presentation with a trophy awarded to the best team. A speaker will talk about NAIDOC and its importance for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people. “We’ll hopefully put NAIDOC week on more people’s calendar because not all people get the opportunity to participate in the activities in NAIDOC week at the moment. If we can have a range of events and things that people enjoy such as Touch Football and then talk to them about NAIDOC week at the same time and share some of the Aboriginal culture, then that is a good outcome,” Castro said.Leanne Townsend from the Department of Families and Communities Services and Indigenous Affairs (FACSIA), said sporting events such as the Touch Football tournament are a great way to raise awareness of Indigenous culture and achievements. FACSIA is providing more than one million dollars to NAIDOC week nationally. One of the biggest issues to address will be the gap that can sometimes form between indigenous and non-indigenous people in society. “It’s an opportunity for people to participate and actually get involved in community activities with indigenous people because some people don’t know how to go about that. Sporting activities are an easy was to be involved and NAIDOC week gives people the opportunity to go along and learn more about all people in their community,” Townsend said. Above all, the tournament will be a chance to get out and have a bit of fun. Former ACT player and Australian representative at the 2005 Youth World Cup Melinda Ingram will be one of the players getting out and enjoying the day. Ingram is an Indigenous Australian who said there are many benefits to NAIDOC week and the associated activities. “It’s good to promote NAIDOC week and good to get non-indigenous people involved in the events. It’ll be great for people to meet both indigenous and non-indigenous people and raise awareness and pride in our Indigenous history,” Ingram said. NAIDOC celebrations will occur the nation over, and the Touch Football community will be participating in various events to honour Indigenous culture, history, and achievements.This will only help to raise awareness and recognition of a proud and vital part of our past and future, both as a sport and a society..