Indigenous Marathon Project

It was a pleasure to be able to move a motion on the great work being done by the Indigenous Marathon Project to promote active and healthy lifestyles in Indigenous communities. 

Indigenous Marathon Project Motion

17 August 2015 

 I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) established in 2010, the Indigenous Marathon Project (IMP) plays a valuable role in promoting healthy lifestyles in Indigenous communities, creating Indigenous role models and inspiring Indigenous people;

(b) the IMP is part of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF), a health promotion charity that changes lives through running and that celebrates and showcases incredible Indigenous achievement and resilience;

(c) through the IMP, young Indigenous men and women aged from 18 to 30 are given the opportunity to unearth their own sense of self-worth and pride by completing a full marathon;

(d) participants in the IMP mostly train in their communities, attending four one-week training and education camps, and must complete a Certificate III in Fitness, acquire a Sports Aid Certificate and attain both Level I and II Accreditation in Recreational Running Coaching with Athletics Australia;

(e) the capstone achievement of the IMP is for participants to represent their families and communities and complete the biggest marathon in the world, in the biggest city in the world, the famous New York City Marathon held each November;

(f) in the last five years, the IMP has successfully graduated 43 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island men and women with 11 more enrolled in this year's program, coming from remote communities, regional towns and major cities;

(g) most of these IMP graduates had never run before, but in just six months, had all run a full 42.2 kilometre marathon, with the motto 'the harder the struggle, the greater the reward', which builds self-worth and self-belief by setting difficult goals and achieving them; and

(h) in communities around Australia, graduates of the IMP have continued to run, established running and walking groups and organised hundreds of 'Deadly Fun Runs' each year that encourage local communities to lead active lifestyles and help reduce the incidence of disease and social dysfunction; and

(2) commends the work of Rob de Castella and his team in helping to change lives through the IMF and the IMP.

As we stood in the pre-dawn light, the moisture from our breath condensing in the air, someone announced that the Queanbeyan temperature had risen to zero. We were in a park with a group known as the Deadly Runners. Formed by Georgia Gleeson last year, the goal was to build fitness and pride in the local Indigenous community, with the goal of running the five-kilometre Mother's Day Classic. All 10 Deadly Runners successfully completed the run. Later that year Georgia again offered a similar program. At the start of the program, some participants could not run for more than a couple of minutes; by the end, all of them successfully completed the five-kilometre Tuggeranong parkrun.

Georgia's inspiration came from her participation in Rob de Castella's Indigenous Marathon Project. The project gives young Indigenous men and women the opportunity to unearth their own sense of self worth and pride by completing a marathon. The participants also complete a Certificate IV in Leisure and Health to educate and motivate the community on the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle. The IMP helped change Georgia's life, from being what she describes as an unfit smoker to competing in the 2013 New York City Marathon. I was struck by the sense of fun that Georgia creates in her morning running group and her ability to use running to help build a more connected community.

Georgia has also helped shape my running career, encouraging me to become a supporter of the Indigenous Marathon Project. Having run the Gold Coast Marathon in July to raise funds for the Indigenous Marathon Project, I will be joining other members of the Indigenous Marathon Project squad to compete in this year's New York marathon. That squad includes Daniel Lloyd, Chris Guyula, Dwayne Jones, Aaron West, John Leha, Alicia Sabatino, Harriet David, Jaeme Bird, Jacinta Gurruwiwi, Eileen Beyers and Jessica Lovett-Murray. It is an inspiration to be working with these members, the IMP squad, each of whose stories of hard work are truly inspirational.

The Indigenous Marathon Project was established in 2009 by Rob de Castella, founded to provide four remote Indigenous men—Charlie Maher, Caleb Hart, Joseph Davies and Juan Darwin—with the chance to run the New York City Marathon, held each November. The 2011 evaluation report to the Department of Health and Ageing indicated the benefits the initiative provided to the community. It gives young Indigenous men and women from 18 to 30 the opportunity to unearth their own sense of self-worth and pride by completing a full marathon. These skills are then used to assist community members, so it is not just the individual that runs the marathon but also their whole community who benefit from the Indigenous Marathon Project.

In the last five years, IMP has successfully graduated 43 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women, with 11 more enrolled in this year's project. Running is accessible to everyone, and it is hard work for everyone. The Deadly Fun Runs organised around Australia encourage local communities to lead active lifestyles and reduce the incidence of disease and social dysfunction.

The Indigenous Marathon Project is part of the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, a health promotion charity that changes lives through running and celebrates and showcases incredible Indigenous achievement and resilience. Rob de Castella is somebody whose hard work is inspirational for so many Australians. I remember as a child watching him running in the Commonwealth Games and being awestruck by his winning times in the Boston Marathon. The notion of running a marathon in 2:07 is well beyond my wildest dreams, but Rob has been a great help and personal inspiration to me in my own running career. I know also some members of this House have their own marathon backgrounds behind them—not just the Prime Minister but the Chief Opposition Whip and the member for Kingsford Smith are among the keen runners in this House.

This Father's Day, 6 September, the Indigenous Marathon Foundation will launch a major community fundraiser in Centennial Park, Sydney, and simultaneously in about a dozen other communities across Australia. Called the Indigenous Marathon Foundation Father's Day WARRIOR Fun Run, it will seek to promote, highlight and celebrate what it is to be a noble warrior, a good man and a great father. It is being hosted in partnership with Shane Phillips's Redfern-based Tribal Warrior local men's group and the local Sydney Cadigal people, and I wish all participants the best of luck.


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