Goodooga gears up for Games

Kristi Pritchard-Owens learns the rules of the traditional game ‘Wulijini’ following another successful Indigenous Games.

Image: Game face: A student playing wulijini using a volleyball net.

North-west of Lightning Ridge, 20 kilometres south of the Queensland border, is the town of Goodooga.

Home to around 250 people, the township, on Yuwaalaraay Country, is known for two things – the Great Artesian Springs and the Goodooga Indigenous Games – hosted by Goodooga Central School.

The 2022 Games saw the town’s population triple in a single day, with students making the trek from Bourke, Sydney and many places in between to participate in the sporting and cultural event.

“The Goodooga Indigenous Games have been held for 12 years, they’re extremely important for the interaction between schools, students and staff, for the development of pride in young Indigenous people,” Goodooga Central School principal Malcolm Banks said.

“It also enables others to see the vitality of culture in the lives of the emerging generation.

“The games create lasting bonds and connections that will help our young people throughout their lives.”

Making it happen is a seven-month operation, with every member of staff at Goodooga Central School given a role in organising the event that involves finding overnight accommodation for 12 schools and catering for more than 750 people.

This year’s Opening Ceremony was held in the school’s cultural garden.

Although 24 schools participated in the games, an important characteristic of the event is students do not represent their schools on the field.

Instead 18 teams were created and each given an Indigenous animal name such as Dhirridhirri (willy wagtails), Guduu (cods), and Bigibila (echidnas).

“We mix them up so they can meet and compete with students from other schools and areas, and other ages,” Mr Banks said.

“It’s not about winning or losing, it’s about getting kids to meet each other while playing together.”

Games include ‘Wulijini’, a volleyball-type game originally played with a samia seed on Bathurst Island (although players can use any body part to get the ball back over the net; as long as the ball doesn’t touch the ground); and ‘Buroinjin’, a ball game played by the Kabi Kabi people of southern Queensland where spectators cheer on the players by calling “ei, ei”.

Once the games were finished, a huge lunch was laid out for the entire community with Elders and visitors as special guests.

“Everyone in town in comes along, it’s just huge,” Mr Banks said.

Goodooga Central School will hold the Goodooga Indigenous Games again in 2023.

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