Pune Media
Leading the news curation and publishing for the people of Pune

At the northern tip of Australia, the search is on for the next First Nations Olympics champion

Waibene is the place from where Australia’s first Indigenous Olympic or Paralympic swimming champion could emerge.

Key points:

  • The Deadly Little Dolphins pilot program is looking to unveil Australia’s next First Nations swimming champion
  • The program is being piloted on Thursday Island, or Waibene, off the tip of northern Queensland
  • Samantha Riley is the only First Nations swimmer to claim a medal at the Olympics

English speakers call it Thursday Island. Swimming Australia hopes a pilot program being trialled there will deliver a First Nations champion at the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Deadly Little Dolphins” is a program that is about much more than talent identification in the Torres Strait Islands – it is about harnessing children’s love of the water to improve educational outcomes; it is about water safety, with First Nations children over-represented in national drowning statistics; and it is about building bridges between cultures.

Quandamooka man Cameron Costello is a member of the Brisbane 2032 Legacy Committee. He told The Ticket there is an opportunity for reciprocal benefit.

“It’s a connector between two cultures, it is a shared learning,” he said.

“What we hope is that through the engagement and learning about getting into squads there is also the balance of sharing in culture, connecting with country, culture and people for non-indigenous people who are involved in this program.

“That’s the beauty of this program, it provides that pathway for reciprocal shared learnings.

“We are in an amazing space at the moment in terms of Australia and our journey to reconciliation with First Nations people … we see this as a great avenue for that as well.

“It provides such a positive, exciting, generous process for aboriginal and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Torres Strait Islander people to come together.”

The Swimming Australia initiative is First Nations led and co-designed. The hope is corporate Australia will see the benefits and contribute to a national rollout.

Swimming Australia CEO Eugenie Buckley said the idea was born out of time spent reflecting on 2022 research identifying barriers for First Nations people in getting more deeply involved with the sport than at a purely recreational level.

“What we wanted was for Australia’s swim team, the Dolphins, to fully reflect the Australian community,” Buckley said.

“We are really under-represented at the moment in relation to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands.”

Buckley is not alone in identifying the powerfully symbolic moment of First Nations athlete Cathy Freeman lighting the cauldron at the Sydney Olympics just days before blitzing all-comers on the track to win gold in the 400m.

“I think back to Sydney 2000 and Cathy Freeman – absolutely awe-inspiring greatest moment of the Sydney Olympics. We want to create that moment in relation to swimming,” she said.

“We are an island, we are a swimming nation, it’s in our DNA, it’s part of our cultural social fabric so the impetus is let’s make sure we can create that iconic moment for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to medal at the Olympics and Paralympics in 2032.”

Local schools and community members on Thursday Island are included in developing and delivering the Deadly Little Dolphins initiative.

Two time Olympic basketballer Danny Morseu was born on Thursday Island and is now deputy chair of the Australian Olympic Committee’s Indigenous committee.

Two time Olympian Danny Morseu said the program would help teach stroke competency in young swimmers.(Supplied: Australian Olympic Committee)

“Our community is water loving and a structures sustainable in-school learn-to-swim program for our children, along with opportunities to develop swimming stroke competency amongst our local children and youth is exciting and is very welcome,” Morseu said.

“We would love a Thursday Island community member to be on the Australian Olympic or Paralympic Team in Brisbane ’32.”

The Dolphins, as the Australian swim team is known, carries an immediate affinity with many First Nations coastal and island people.

It is a totem for the Quandamooka people of Moreton Bay. Costello said he had a “proud dad moment” when his 15-year-old daughter, Ayla, was asked to design the logo for the Deadly Little Dolphins.

“We call it Buwangan in our language,” Costello said.

“And so her being able to look at her culture and the importance of the dolphin in that space but then being able to look at the story of the Deadly Little Dolphins and the pathways and journeys, you’ll see that integrated into her design.

“She captured that First Nations culture and the journey that Swimming Australia is taking … I’m extremely proud of her.”

South-east Queensland and regional NSW have also been identified as areas where the program can be rolled out next. Meanwhile Swimming Australia says it will partner with schools, swim schools, swimming pool operators, councils and community groups to deliver Deadly Little Dolphins across Australia.

“First Nations people have been involved with water, both fresh and salt, for tens of thousands of years … and competitive games, traditional games … so this connectivity between the First Nations people and our wonderful track record with swimming is something that we really want to embrace and connect with,” Costello said.

Despite winning swimming medals at the Olympic games since 1900, the Australian Dolphins have only ever had one First National medallist – Sam Riley, who won a bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke in Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, where she also swam to a silver medal in the 4x100m medley relay team.

At the time Riley was unaware of her Indigenous heritage. Her mother, Lin, had been given up for adoption as a newborn, and it was only through her determined efforts to find her own mother that her heritage was uncovered in 2001.

That discovery meant Riley was officially Australia’s first Indigenous medal winner at an Olympic Games.


Images are for reference only.Images and contents gathered automatic from google or 3rd party sources.All rights on the images and contents are with their legal original owners.

Aggregated From –

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More