SANFL launches groundbreaking Indigenous Umpiring Program

SANFL’s Indigenous Umpiring Program makes a significant stride towards diversifying and enriching the games’ umpiring landscape.


The SANFL, in partnership with the AFL and Tjindu Foundation, is proud to launch its inaugural Indigenous Umpiring Program, providing awareness and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to connect with Australian football.

The new initiative is a significant milestone for SANFL and AFL, as it paves the way to increase diversity and enrich the umpiring landscape across the state.

Run over four weekly sessions which kicked off earlier this month, the pilot program is giving 70 Tjindu students in years 10, 11 and 12 education on the Laws of The Game and on-field skills training across all disciplines of umpiring – field, goal and boundary.

For select students, it excitingly ends with the opportunity to umpire a NAB AFL Auskick match at half-time during Port Adelaide’s Round 5 clash with Fremantle at Adelaide Oval.

Matthew Northcott, Umpire Recruitment, Development & Retention Lead at the SANFL, said students who participate in this program will be able to join their local umpiring club as a field, boundary or goal umpire, and undertake Foundation Umpire Accreditation.

For those looking to progress their career into umpiring, the AFL will subsidise their registration and uniform costs, including clothes, whistle and flags in line with their discipline.

“This program in particular aims to increase opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be involved in umpiring – providing a solid training environment among peers to increase diversity and keep growing that for future,” Northcott said.

“Our goal is to increase awareness and provide opportunities for those who want to give it a go, as we all as making the pathway into umpiring accessible.


Students at the goal umpiring skills session.

Luke Brennan, the AFL’s National Umpire Recruitment, Development and Retention Lead, said this was an exciting initiative and thanked the SANFL and Tjindu Foundation for their collaboration and support.

“Firstly, I’d like to thank the SANFL and Tjindu Foundation for the work they have put into the Indigenous Umpiring Program, it’s a fantastic initiative and hope those that take part enjoy the experience,” Brennan said.

“This course plays a vital role in promoting opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to participate in umpiring – there’s so many ways people can get involved in our game and we know umpiring is a fantastic way to connect with footy.

“The SANFL has excelled in making umpiring accessible to everyone, especially locally at the grassroots level. It’s been leading the way in the growth of women and girls across the country and this program is another terrific step.”

Conceptualised and led by AFL Indigenous Ambassador Joshua James, a Noongar Wardandi man, the program offers Indigenous youth a blend of classroom education and practical training, equipping participants with the skills and confidence to officiate matches at all levels of the game.

“I’m very proud of the program. It’s the very first academy of its kind and it really has the potential as a pilot program to be huge going forward,” James said.

“Considering out of approximately 17,000 umpires nationwide, there’s only 220 that identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. And out of those 220, there’s only one umpiring at senior state league footy and AFLW, and that’s myself – so there’s room for development.”

This academy enables the SANFL to set a new a long-term vision with the aim of creating equal opportunities and increased inclusivity within the sport on both sides of the field.

In a game where every call counts, the SANFL Indigenous Umpiring Program is the first bounce towards a new era for the officiators of our great game.


Learning the art of the umpire’s bounce.

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