ABORIGINAL and Torres Strait Islander footballers throughout Australia will be presented with new opportunities to pursue their chosen sport thanks to the launch of the Charles Perkins Soccer Academy.
While the academy is an initiative driven by Hyundai A-League newcomers Macarthur FC, it will serve the interests of Indigenous players across Australia and look to unite the many active programs under one cohesive umbrella.
As well as establishing a high-performance program, the academy will work with Macarthur FC to help other Hyundai A-League clubs and the broader football community further engage with reconciliation initiatives. This will include pioneering an Indigenous football round and promoting innovative ways for clubs and supporters to connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The academy’s name honours one of Australia’s finest Indigenous footballers and civil rights activists; a man who dedicated his life to achieving justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Dr Charles Nelson Perrurle Perkins AO (1936-2000) was from the Arrenrnte and Kalkadoon people, one of the Stolen Generation. He played for Adelaide Croatia, Pan Hellenic in Sydney and was a ‘first pick’ for the South Australian state squad. He also played for lower division Bishop Auckland in England, trialled for Everton and was invited to trial for Manchester United while in England.
High performance teams and camps will be hosted at Macarthur FC’s soon to be constructed centre of excellence in Campbelltown, but other programs will be rolled out nationally.
The board of the Charles Perkins Soccer Academy will be made up of: Roy Ah See (Director of Indigenous Business Australia and Member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council); Richard McGuinness (consultant); Danielle Mate Sullivan (artist); Bonita Mersiades (writer and publisher); Professor Michelle Trudgett; (Pro Vice Chancellor, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education, Western Sydney University).
Director of Football for the academy will be former Socceroos coach and Australian football royalty, Frank Farina OAM, the only man with Indigenous blood to coach the national team. Born in Darwin to a Torres Strait Islander mother and Italian father, Farina grew up in New Guinea and Cairns.
He will initially work on constructing the framework of the academy structure, identifying locations for satellite centres and building alliances with partners. Farina enjoyed a glittering career as both a player and coach, but now looks forward to his new role which he knows will be life-changing for many Indigenous players.
“The Charles Perkins Academy project is one that can create real impact in people’s lives and for that reason I’m excited to be involved,” Farina said.
“I’m looking forward to working with FFA, the state federations and all football’s stakeholder groups to form meaningful partnerships that will make a difference. This academy is not only about delivering great opportunities for young Indigenous players, but also about promoting understanding and celebrating the diversity that is so much a part of Australian life.
“From a football perspective, we know there will be hidden gems out there and we can’t wait to find them.”