Sport and Community Go Hand in Hand on Mornington Island

Imagine speakers playing tunes, the smell of a BBQ cooking, families coming together and 80 local kids, most without shoes, laughing and joking getting ready to play a game of touch football. This is a typical Tuesday night for the Mornington Island community since the successful introduction of the Move It NQ program in June 2021.

On this remote island paradise in the Gulf of Carpentaria, sport goes beyond just playing a game. “There are so many ways that playing sport can help to build up our community and bring more positivity” said Violet Taulanga, Mornington Shire Council Community Development Officer. “The Move It NQ program has given our kids something to do that is physical and positive. We set behaviour expectations from the outset, respectful for the ref and each other, using manners, some of these kids come from home with limited boundaries, but they are all jumping around saying please and thank you without even thinking about it.”

Encouraging Culture

The Move It NQ project in partnership with the Mornington Shire Council and Western Queensland PHN has introduced both boxing and touch football to the island. To encourage local culture and language they are known as Baya Kuburda (boxing) and Thaldi Gilmoo Luuli (touch football). These programs have been a huge success, with both programs achieving a total attendance of over 650 participants in just 6 months.

“Move It NQ is very excited to be a part of this program on Mornington Island. It wouldn’t be what it is without the incredible partnerships, volunteers, and local community dedication to their own health. These programs are extremely important, not only for the physical wellbeing of the community but also for their social and emotional wellbeing and breaking down structural barriers” said Bella Hickson, Move It NQ Program Coordinator.

Touch Football Coordinator LagiLagi Servuvatu believes the values they are teaching the kids through playing are important life skills “it goes beyond playing touch, getting the young ones to understand teamwork and communication. Last night the little kids (10-13 years) beat the older boys, they realised that by working together they could be stronger.”

Bright Future Ahead

It certainly hasn’t been an easy feat to pull something of this magnitude off “It takes a lot to pull together” said Taulunga, “how it began to what it looks like now is incredible, its taken perseverance and lots of volunteers. Things keep improving too, our footy oval was in dire condition before, now it’s a sight to see, green and amazing – we have even fixed up the line marking machine and will have lines on the field for the first time in a long time!”

The future looks strong for the Mornington community with Move It NQ further funding programs in building capacity to run additional community fitness sessions and the possibility of introducing a junior rugby league team that can feed into the successful Mornington Island Raiders team, who recently took home the North Queensland Sportstar Sporting Excellence Award.

The CEO of the North Queensland Sports Foundation (NQSF) Stephen Farrell and the NQSF team recognises building stronger communities through physical activity and sport is essential to address regional community health and wellbeing. “As a project of the NQSF, Move It NQ provides councils and communities with the resources to implement physical activity programs that are designed to the specific needs of their community. We are committed to building the capacity of Local Government to target those most in need and reduce the burden of chronic disease in North Queensland.”