Orara All Stars Prove Deadly

The Orara All-Stars.


HEATHER Duncan, the Development Officer for the Indigenous Girls Academy at Orara High School and a long-term representative touch football player, has been able to combine two of her passions, in bringing the sport of touch footy to 21 young women from Orara High School.

As her first year working with Orara High’s Balmuun Jindas Indigenous Girls Academy comes to a close, Heather reflects on the success of the program and the role that exercise and sport can play in the lives of adolescents, particularly those that are at risk of early drop out.

‘Balmuun Jindas’ means ‘Strong Sisters’ and just like its name, the academy aims to assist its young women to become empowered and successful in all facets of their lives.

“We work with the girls to strengthen their connection to Indigenous culture, and the wider community,” Heather said.

The program is also committed to providing pathways to further study and employment and, as Heather explains, “An equally important part of what we do is the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, and this is where touch footy comes in.”

Heather spent much of her youth playing touch footy in the backyard with her dad and siblings and, as she got older, the sport gave her the opportunity “to travel and make friends and to stay in school.”

Heather has represented Coffs Harbour at all levels of competition, including playing in the National Touch League in March.

“I wanted to pass on what I have learnt over the years, so when the local summer comp started back after COVID, I tried to get as many Orara girls as I could to sign up for the women’s comp.”

Heather was able to recruit enough players for two teams.

“Thirteen of our girls were part of the Indigenous Girls Academy and the majority of players had never picked up a footy before.”

Heather and Aboriginal Education Officer, Anthony Donovan, trained the teams during school recess and experienced player and coach, Relle Donovan, helped guide the novice players on game-night.

It didn’t take long before all their efforts were rewarded, with the Orara All-Stars team going from the bottom of the ladder to winning the B grade competition.

Heather states with pride that it was, “A ‘deadly’ experience for everyone that was involved.

“On Grand Final night we had parents, grandparents and friends all cheering the girls on in their final game.

“It was a massive achievement and something they can all be proud of.”

Year 9 student, Lilly Anne Dootson, said, “Playing in the Coffs Harbour comp taught me how to play touch footy.

“I really enjoyed doing something different and this was the first grand final I have won and taken part in, and I’d love to do it again in the future.”

The crossover of sporting skills into other areas of life is not lost on Heather, who said, “These young women have built connections with each other, they’ve tried something completely new and challenging and they’ve worked hard at it until they’ve had success – and of course they’ve had a heap of fun in the process.”

No doubt, this is what being Strong Sisters, or Balmuun Jindas, is all about!

Buoyed by their success, many of the Orara girls are braving the colder weather and playing in the Coffs Harbour Touch Associations Winter competition on Monday nights.


21 young women from Orara High School took to the field.

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