Future Matildas and Western Sydney Wanderers Westfield W-League goalkeeper Jada Whyman is taking part in the 2020 edition of the Australian Institute of Sport’s ‘Share a Yarn’ program, enabling her to connect with the Indigenous community and learn more about differing cultures, lands, history and people.
Whyman, who balances her professional football commitments and aspirations with a part-time position working with Headspace as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Outreach Worker in Sydney, applied to take part in the program in January this year.
The program – which features 13 elite athletes from ten different sports – was initially set to include in person visits to remote communities throughout 2020 so that the athletes could immerse themselves in Indigenous culture in order to help them to become better role models for the Australian community.
And while COVID-19 may have put physical visits to regional and remote areas of Australia on hold, that doesn’t mean the initiative has hit pause.
Instead, the athletes, including Whyman, have being utilising the ‘Share a Yarn’ online video platform to engage with the Indigenous youth of Arlparra – a remote community situated 200 kilometres from Alice Spring in the Northern Territory.
“’Share a Yarn’ is about getting all athletes, from any code, and sending them out into the community around Australia, rural or remote, and kind of getting them to have a feel of what Australia is like and what different communities are like,” Whyman explained in a video feature recently produced by the AIS.
“We (the Indigenous community) are just a massive family to be honest. Everyone is connected to one another.”
“We (the ‘Share a Yarn’ participants) have a digital platform where we communicate. We ask them (the Indigenous youth) questions about sports that they are interested in, their culture, and what they do around their community. And then they send back a video maybe showing their skills or what they do in their community,” she said.
While the ‘Share a Yarn’ program features athletes from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds, Whyman, who is a proud Indigenous woman hailing from Wagga Wagga in the Riverina region of New South Wales, felt compelled to apply to participate in the program and learning of the opportunity via the Future Matildas.
After suffering a serious knee injury, Whyman realised that her football career will not last forever. She commenced channelling some of her focus to what she could do to complement her current aspirations, while planning for life after football.
“I really pushed myself to find what my passion was outside of football,” Whyman wrote in her ‘Share a Yarn’ application. “The Future Matildas program really helped me in finding my career outside of football.”
“Being a proud Indigenous woman, I feel that I need to connect more with my culture. Being in the job I am … I want to show that I am connected with my culture. It’s a huge part of me and having the opportunity to be able to support young Indigenous people through my job is such an honour.”
In the video feature produced by the AIS, Whyman gives an insight into her lived experiences as an Indigenous youth, which undoubtedly help her to resonate with participants in the program.
She shares memories of fishing and hunting in the Murrumbidgee, a river central to her upbringing, and is also seen sharing her experiences with fellow Western Sydney Wanderers player Amy Harrison, who represented Australia at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France last year.
“I am taking my knowledge back to my teams and sharing it with them,” Whyman added. “I am educating myself, but I am also passing a lot of knowledge on as my elders would do to me.”
“Having these programs really opens you up to having that conversation.”