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Program helps record number of athletes navigate culture and sport

03 August 2023

A record 16 First Nations athletes and 10 First Nations mentors have been appointed into the AIS 2023 Share a Yarn Program (SaY).

Mariah Williams smiling holding black drink bottle with Indigenous flag on it.
2023 Share a Yarn Ambassador Mariah Williams, Wiradjuri.

For two-time Oceania Athletics Champion and proud Woromi and Wannarua woman Tomysha Clark, it was the loss of her grandmother that inspired her to become a 2023 SaY ambassador.

“My grandmother was a part of the stolen generation, which led to a huge gap in knowledge for my family around our Indigenous heritage.

“After losing my grandmother, I made a goal for myself to try and fill that gap. This is why I am beyond grateful to be selected for SaY as it will allow me to deeply connect with my culture and continue my learning journey.”

Connection with country and culture is at the heart of the Australian Institute of Sport’s SaY program. Over 12 months, the program provides Australia’s elite First Nations athletes with meaningful opportunities to connect and build relationships with each other, while at the same time learning more about themselves, their culture, and their country.

The 2023 program will see a record 16 athlete ambassadors take part, including Hockeyroo and two-time Olympian Mariah Williams and Australian Rollers wheelchair basketball player Clarence McCarthy-Grogan.

Headshots of SaY 2023 ambassadors.
2023 Share a Yarn Ambassadors, top from left, Aaleya Turner, Abbey Connor, Amanda Reid, Bianca Crisp, Bronte Stewart, Calab Law, Clarence McCarthy-Grogan, Emilia Murray, Emily Watts, Mariah Williams, Marissa Williamson Pohlman, Ruby Storm, Sarah Haywood, Tay-Leiha Clark, Tomysha Clark and Tyler Puzicha.

AIS Diversity, People and Culture Executive General Manager Bianca Broadhurst said ten First Nations mentors have also been selected to walk side by side with this year’s athletes.

“We have heard from athletes how important connection and belonging are in enabling them to be at their best,” Broadhurst said.

“This is especially critical within the context of high-performance sport, where elite athletes may be training, living, and competing for extended periods or a long way away from family and the community in which they’ve grown up.

“SaY is about not walking the journey alone, but together. It provides a safe, respectful space for First Nation athletes to connect over stories and shared experiences, as well as strengthen their support networks across sport through each other, as First Nations mentors and with non-Indigenous allies.”

As one of Australia’s most decorated Para-swimmers, three-time Paralympian Ben Austin OAM hopes to use his experience as a First Nations athlete to help his mentees navigate their culture and sport.

“For me, being a SaY mentor is about sharing my experience as an Indigenous athlete who was in the elite sport system for over a decade and impart the ways I was able to continue my career whilst being homesick and away from my mob.”

Fellow mentor and Proud Noongar woman Tahlia Taylor-Kickett added: “Being a SaY mentor is about ensuring the athletes can make their sporting career a priority while keeping them culturally strong, grounded, and safe.”

Headshots of 2023 Share a Yarn Mentors.
2023 Share a Yarn Mentors, top from left, Ben Austin, Brad Hore, Danny Morseu, Jacara Egan, Jess Skinner, Kyle Vander Kuyp, Patrick Johnson, Tahlia Taylor-Kickett, Tanisha Williams and Tyrone Bean.

The 2023 group will participate in several online mentoring sessions before gathering at the AIS in Canberra for a cultural camp later this year. Follow this link to learn more about the SaY program and the 2023 cohort.

AIS SaY 2023 Athlete Ambassadors

  • Aaleya Turner, Kaurna - Netball
  • Abbey Connor, Manildra - Swimming
  • Amanda Reid, Wemba-Wemba and Guringai - Cycling and Snow Sport
  • Bianca Crisp, Wiradjuri - Swimming
  • Bronte Stewart, Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi  - Cycling
  • Calab Law, Wakka Wakka - Athletics
  • Clarence McCarthy-Grogan, Yanyuwa, Garrawa and Kuku Yalanji - Basketball
  • Emilia Murray, Yorta Yorta and Dhudhuroa - Football
  • Emily Watts, Wiradjuri - Cycling
  • Mariah Williams, Wiradjuri - Hockey
  • Marissa Williamson Pohlman, Ngarrindjeri - Boxing
  • Ruby Storm, Wiradjuri - Swimming
  • Sarah Haywood - Archery
  • Tay-Leiha Clark, Worimi and Wannarua - Athletics
  • Tomysha Clark, Worimi and Wannarua - Athletics
  • Tyler Puzicha, Wurundjeri - Cycling

AIS SaY 2023 Mentors

  • Ben Austin - Swimming
  • Brad Hore - Boxing
  • Danny Morseu - Basketball
  • Jacara Egan - AFL
  • Jess Skinner - Rugby League
  • Kyle Vander Kuyp - Athletics
  • Patrick Johnson - Athletics
  • Tahlia Taylor-Kickett - Football
  • Tanisha Williams - Multiple
  • Tyrone Bean – AFL

AIS SaY 2023 Allies

  • Alex Rossi
  • Breeana Walker
  • Jamie-Lee Price
  • Marina Carrier
  • Nic Kyriazis
  • Sally Phillips
  • Trevor Hirth
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