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