Emma Hindaugh

Physiotherapist, Back in Motion, Bayswater (VIC)

"Diagnosing and treating lots of strains and sprains, and a bit of taping to keep them together. The kids, and the adults here (Gapuwiyak), love a bit of a bandage or strapping."

Tom and I spent 2 weeks in Arnhem Land volunteering our physiotherapy services through the SOS Health Foundation. We were able to coincide our support with our family trip to Western Australia and the Northern Territory. We have 3 boys aged 5, 8 and 10. The timing was perfect as we arrived in Darwin on the weekend prior to the sports carnival.

Arnhem Sports is an annual social and sporting carnival involving students aged 11–18+ yrs. All of the teams are from schools in remote communities in North Arnhem Land; Ramingining, Gapuwiyak, Elcho Island, Maningrida, Warruwi, Milingimbi and Yirrkala. There were about 24 students from each school, two girls and two boys for each age group. The closest school was a 3 hour drive away, the longest drive 6 hours and a few of the teams had to fly in. Each kid competed in all the events – track and field, cross-country and the team events of volleyball, netball and the premier event basketball. The best performers in the athletics can go on to represent the Arnhem Cluster at the Northern Territory Athletics Championship in Darwin later in the year.

All but the basketball was performed bare-footed and then only a few had shoes. The standard of these kids was amazing, especially considering they do not have any ‘expert’ coaching, and for many they do not have access to some of the required equipment such as high jump mats. By the way, the highest jump was over 1.7 metres by a boy who was taking off on his wrong foot because of a hamstring tear that morning.

The fire cart was brought out at the end of the athletics to cool everyone down. Of course, our kids were in the middle of it.

With such a packed program Tom and I were kept busy, especially during the track events. Diagnosing and treating lots of strains and sprains, and a bit of taping to keep them together. The kids, and the adults here, love a bit of a bandage or strapping. We have been amused to see a kid with a bandage on his or her arm and then a few minutes later it is on a leg. In addition, as you can see by the photos our conditions were not what we normally encounter. The Yolngu kids are very tactile and friendly so we would always have one or more holding our hands, draped across us or asking us questions.

This is the first time any physios have been at Arnhem Sports and our efforts were well appreciated. Tom, with the aid of the boys, ran an education session on injury management and stretching. This was a bit of a challenge with the language difficulties.

Each of the winning teams received medals as well as the best overall track and field for each age group. Gapuwiyak dominated in the team events winning all but the junior volleyball, and also won the overall trophy. Apparently, it is a bit of a rivalry with the Shepherdson College of Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island who were defending champions. There were also a number of other presentations, many thank yous, including Tom and I. The funniest was by the staff of Gapuwiyak who passed a torch (flashlight) onto Millingimbi (I think) the school hosting next year. They said that this was the torch used on night patrols of the school, where all the kids were sleeping, and they wanted to see it being used for night patrols there. A very funny symbolic gesture.

On the last night they had a disco to celebrate. This was not like our disco where everyone dances. Instead, circles would form around individuals or small groups of dancers. Boy could these kids move, apart from the rap hip-hop style of dancing, there was definitely the influence of their local traditional dance style. Lots of crazy hip wiggling like nothing I have seen.

Emma and Tom Hindhaugh
Back In Motion – Bayswater, Vic