The Western Australian Government and the Australian Football League (AFL) have teamed up to commit $5 million to supporting community football in the Kimberley region.
The project will see $1 million per year over five years devoted to a range of initiatives including upgrading facilities, boosting participation and bolstering pathways across the passionate football region. The funding program is designed to create a legacy to follow Western Australia hosting its historic first AFL Grand Final.
The Kimberley has a population of around 35,000 with 81 football teams, 17 NAB AFL Auskick centres and nearly 2600 registered players across an area twice the size of Victoria. Several current AFL and AFLW players come from the region including Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton), Jack Martin (Carlton), Callum Ah Chee (Brisbane), Krstel Petrevski (Melbourne) and Joel Hamling (Fremantle).
Despite the region's rich football heritage, further investment is required to help the game in the Kimberley reach its full potential and allow players, coaches, umpires and volunteers to overcome the challenges they face and thrive.
AFL Chief Executive Gillon McLachlan said the program reinforced the AFL's commitment to the game at grassroots level and that the project would go a long way in supporting and developing football in the region.
"This is an exciting announcement and I would like to thank Premier McGowan and the Western Australian Government for partnering with the AFL to support a passionate and important football region, the Kimberley.
"There is clearly an incredible amount of talent and love for the game in communities across the region, but we recognise there are challenges. This program will help to ensure the people of the Kimberley who are involved in football are given better opportunities to participate, enjoy the game and reach their potential.
"Premier McGowan and the Western Australian Government played a major role in the AFL successfully finishing what has been another really challenging year for the game, which we are very grateful for. This substantial funding partnership is further evidence of their support for the game and how having the AFL Grand Final in Perth for the first time can have a lasting positive impact on not just the elite game but community football as well."
Comments attributed to Western Australia Premier, the Hon. Mark McGowan MLA:
"The Kimberley is a source of incredible football talent, punching well above its weight in producing champions of the game.
"Players in the Kimberley often face significant barriers like distance, travel costs and lack of facilities. This plan is about reducing those hurdles and ensuring the support is in place to grow the game in our north.
"Despite the challenges the Kimberley football system has produced some exciting elite players, while delivering community and health benefits to people of all ages.
Comments attributed to Sport and Recreation Minister, the Hon. Dr Tony Buti MLA:
"The funding for Kimberley football will ensure our incredible AFL Grand Final is not a flash in the pan for Western Australia, and its legacy will continue through grassroots development.
"Strong football clubs in regional areas like the Kimberley translates to stronger communities and better social outcomes.
"We want this program to help anyone, of any age and gender, to get involved whether they're playing for Halls Creek Hawks, Wangkatjungka Crows or the Bidyadanga Emus.
"There is no greater passion for footy than in the Kimberley, and we look forward to seeing the region continue to develop as a regional football capital.