Once an entire school class on sports-loving Groote Eylandt shared a single pair of footy boots.

Key points:

  • Boots for One and All charity started small by sending a few boxes of pre-loved boots to Indigenous communities
  • It now runs an annual drive and sends pallets of boots, clothes and sanitary items
  • Official reports a huge increase in sporting engagement in Groote Eylandt

The impractical scenario is unlikely ever to be repeated thanks to a special bond forged through Aussie rules football and a Gold Coast-based family charity.

Palm Beach mother of four Natalie Contogeorge started Boots for One and All four years ago with a mission to send pre-loved footy boots to remote Indigenous communities.

“Sport is not cheap and football boots are not cheap,” Ms Contogeorge said.

“It is not a good feeling when you think your kid is going to miss out — especially when it is something so important like health and sports.”

Small beginnings

In its first year the charity sent three small boxes of football boots. Last year, eight pallet loads were shipped to communities including those on the Northern Territory’s Groote Eylandt, the largest island in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Three Groote Eylandt boys posing in shoes donated by Gold Coast charity

Sporting gear donated by Gold Coast family charity proudly worn by three Groote Eylandt boys.(

Supplied: Natalie Contogeorge

)

The charity’s scope has expanded over that time to include clothing, toys and sanitary products.

“We are definitely growing and that just shows the need that is out there in these communities,” Ms Contogeorge said.

As a result, the Groote Eylandt Stingrays are now decked out in gear provided by the charity and Boots for One and All has come to the rescue of the school team.

Last year, nine Groote Eylandt girls travelled to the Gold Coast and were presented with packs of goodies.

“They said, ‘We are taking these home to our families because that’s what communities out there do’. They share everything.”

Women's AFL team team pose for photo on football field with puppy at front

Groote Eylandt Women’s AFL team decked out in gear from the charity.(

Supplied: Natalie Contogeorge

)

No money but huge hearts and helpers

Ms Contogeorge said her charity work was a great leveller.

“The photographs that we get through of kids with their first shoes or football boots, or young girls holding sanitary packs with deodorants, it is really humbling,” she said.

For the first time Boots for One and All will stage a fundraiser on the Gold Coast on April 16.

“To be honest we don’t have any [money],” Ms Contogeorge said.

Natalie Contogeorge wearing hoodie with charity emblem on

Gold Coast mum behind charity helping remote indigenous communities(

Supplied: Natalie Contogeorge

)

Over the years, Ms Contogeorge has managed to make some helpful connections with residents from Groote Eylandt, Darwin, Cherbourg and the Gold Coast.

The Burleigh Bears Rugby League Club has been a strong supporter from the beginning and the charity’s network now includes schools, soccer and touch football clubs.

Football is a religion — except on fishing days

Ms Contogeorge said she made a key connection about three years ago when the charity linked up with AFL remote development officer Robert Hince.

“Over the years I’ve seen a huge difference with the engagement of the kids not feeling neglected.” Mr Hince said.

“No-one’s left behind now, it’s fantastic,” he said.

The Groote Eylandt men’s team travels in six light planes every fortnight to compete 160 kilometres away in the Northern Territory’s Gove competition.

But with a chuckle, Mr Hince said Groote was not like the rest of the Territory “where football is a religion”.

‘No-one’s left behind now’: Gold Coast charity helps Indigenous children play sport
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