The Elders Olympics is an event that has been held annually during NAIDOC week since 2001. As the 2011 winners of the Elders Olympics, the Biripi Elders are hosting the Elders Olympics on local turf at Taree this year.
Workers at Booroongen Djugun first introduced the Elders Olympics, as they felt that there were limited or no activities during NAIDOC Week for our Elders.
The Elders Olympics is a one-day event where Aboriginal Clients of Community Care, HACC, Disability and Aged Care Services from Northern NSW come and participate in events such as ball weaving, shooting hoops, gum boot throwing, tunnel ball, quoits, and a walking relay.
Aunty Susie enjoys the whole ceremony of the event, saying, “People make their own banners for their teams, and some of the banners are really beautiful.There is a show to decide on the best banner, and everyone also has their own T-shirt and uniform to wear.”
She really sees the value of participating in the Olympics, saying,“It’s good for people of my age. It’s like a fun day, and it’s better than sitting around in a rocking chair!”
Fellow Captain Uncle Tom plans to participate in every single race at the Elders Olympics and says he hopes the younger generation take an interest in the Olympics when they get older: “I hope that the younger ones will keep it going when we pass on or can’t do it.”
While the Elders Olympics are very competitive, it is also a day where they interact with each other, as some clients don’t see family and friends for some months. Some of the participants who attend have moderate to severe disabilities and need extra support to actively participate.
Participants train and practice for some time in the lead up to NAIDOC week. The winner of the event wins a perpetual shield, which they take back to their community for 12 months and wins the right to host the Elders Olympics the following year.
Over 250 clients are attending the 2012 Elders Olympics, from areas including Kempsey, Coffs Harbour, Taree/Forster, Nambucca Valley, Wauchope, Newcastle, Armidale/Uralla, Tamworth, Wee Waa/Narrabri and Moree.
Many participants taking place in the Elders Olympics will stay overnight in the area, providing a significant boost to Taree’s economy.
To commemorate this year’s Elders Olympics, there will be a presentation dinner, where the winner of the Olympics will be announced and Elders will be treated to great night of food and entertainment.
The Elders Olympics will be held during NAIDOC week on July 3 at Taree Recreation Centre.
This story was published in issue 65 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus