Olympians send joy of sport to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

Australian Institute of Sport

They’re bound for the Tokyo Olympics, but cyclist Sarah Gigante and Hockeyroos player Mariah Williams have joined with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Share a Yarn Initiative and the Happy Boxes Project to help women in remote Australian communities experience the joy and the benefits of sport and activity.

The Happy Boxes Project is a community organisation that sends boxes of supplies to remote communities to alleviate the barriers to women accessing basic needs.

The Happy Boxes Project recognises the benefits of sport and activity and are delivering more than 70 fitness-themed boxes to remote communities over the coming months. Alongside some major brands and suppliers, the Fitness Boxes will also each contain an AIS activity pack, including a skipping rope, bag, soccer ball and happy sack, as well as personalised booklets from Sarah and Mariah sharing some of their journey, and insights into their life. The hope is that these boxes will help provide further opportunity for women to be more active.

Gigante and Williams are both ambassadors for the AIS Share a Yarn Initiative, which aims to build more meaningful connections between sport and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and cultures.

“I’m supporting the Happy Boxes Project because it not only provides essential items to women who would otherwise go without, but also includes small extras that go a long way in lifting mood and providing motivation to go out, be active and chase dreams,” Gigante, who will make her Olympic debut in Tokyo, said.

“It’s essential that we give more opportunities and choices to our young women, especially in remote, Indigenous communities. Not only is it fair for everyone to have access to the same treatment and possibilities, but these young women have so much to offer, once they can have the freedom and voice to shine.”

Australian Sports Commission Chair Josephine Sukkar said every Australian should be able to experience the simple joy sport and activity can bring.

“It’s a credit to both Sarah and Mariah that amid their preparations for Tokyo, they’re thinking of others and helping to inspire and empower girls and women through sport. We want our athletes to be role models for cultural understanding and inclusivity, and the work being done with the Happy Boxes Project is a great example of how sport can have a positive impact.”

“I was pleased to see this week that a record number of women and a record number of First Nations athletes were named in the Australian Olympic team. This is a step in the right direction for Australian sport and we must continue to ensure everyone has the opportunities to take part and excel in sport.”

Williams and Gigante are among 14 athletes from 11 sports who were selected as 2021 ambassadors for the AIS Share a Yarn Initiative. The Initiative, which is a part of the AIS People Development and Wellbeing team, selects First Nations and non-Indigenous athletes as ambassadors to undertake cultural training and activities side-by-side, supporting each other to foster reconciliation and improve cultural competency within their own sports.

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