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7 June 2022

AOC, Indigenous Basketball Australia and Toyota Announce Indigenous Coaching Scholarships

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has announced a partnership with Olympian Patty Mills' Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA) and Toyota Australia to create scholarships for Indigenous coaches, using Olympic sport to power positive change in communities.

Cassie Dover (Queensland), Tyson Demos (NSW), Jason Ah Sam (Northern Territory) and Tahlia Kelly (Western Australia) have been announced as the four inaugural recipients of the Australian Olympic Indigenous Coach Scholarship, partnered with Toyota.

As the first of its kind in Australia, the partnership will provide holistic training to four Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander coaches, who will then deliver training programs to young Indigenous Australians around the country.

Founded by Tokyo 2020 Olympic flag bearer, NBA champion and proud Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian Patty Mills, IBA hails cultural identity as a catalyst for success and basketball as the vehicle, with the Scholarship program a unique opportunity to both engage and deliver at a community level.

Funded by the AOC and Toyota - and delivered by IBA - the program was announced at Cornubia Park Sports Centre basketball courts, with scholarship recipients Dover and Demos, who have played in the WNBL and NBL respectively, taking young basketballers through skills and drills.

AOC CEO Matt Carroll said the announcement highlighted the ability of Olympic sport to achieve positive change.

"Our initiative demonstrates the power of Olympic sport," Mr Carroll said. "Supported by Olympic Global Partner Toyota, the training and development of four coaches, will have an exponential impact as they share their skills and run programs for thousands of young Indigenous Australians in the years ahead.

"Set out in our first 'Reflect' Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and ongoing work on our next 'Innovate' RAP, the AOC is committed to establishing sustainable practices and programs that give practical support to Indigenous reconciliation through sport. This partnership is an investment not just for the four coaches, but the ongoing impact they will have throughout Australian communities.

"Patty is an inspiring leader and a great example of the power of the Olympic spirit, both on and off the court. Thank you to Patty, IBA and Toyota for helping achieve great outcomes through Olympic sport.

"Congratulations to Cassie, Tyson, Jason and Tahlia on being the first recipients of this scholarship, we are proud to support this program and look forward to seeing you instilling skills and passion for basketball in the next generation."

Four-time Olympian and Australian Olympic Team Flag Bearer in Tokyo Patty Mills shared the importance of providing grassroots support to achieve positive change.

"It has always been my goal to help realise the potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across the country," said Mills. "The reality is that challenges often stand in the way of that potential, for both coaches and players of basketball.

"Through our powerful partnership with the AOC, we have designed a unique program that will not only combat those challenges but will also build capacity in the coaches themselves and equip them with valuable skills that they can then use deep within the community, ultimately inspiring and upskilling those around them. The power of this knowledge sharing cannot be underestimated."

Proud Yugambeh woman Cassie Dover has played in the WNBL for Townsville Fire and Dandenong Rangers and is currently coaching with the NBL1 North Conference with RedCity Roar Women.

As one of four Indigenous coaches on the program, she is thrilled to be amongst the first scholarship recipients.

"I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity this will bring me to develop my game and knowledge," Dover said. "I am honoured to be selected and hope that I can transfer what I learn from this program to not just players within my community but also coaches too."

"I want to extend my biggest thanks to Patty, his family and everyone who continues to provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders across our country. I am always excited to represent my culture, it brings a whole other level of love for the game of basketball for me. I can't wait to get started."

Proud Bindal Nation man from far north Queensland, Tyson Demos, who played nine seasons in the NBL with the Gold Coast Blaze and Illawarra Hawks will join Dover in the line-up. Demos, who attended the Australian Institute of Sport and was born and raised in Wollongong, also starred in the Australian Indigenous Basketball All Star team.

Tahlia Kelly, who joins Dover and Demos as scholarship coaches is a proud Larrukia woman, currently residing and coaching in Western Australia but who was raised in Cairns, Queensland.

Kelly's career began with the West Adelaide Bearcats when she went on to join the Perth Lynx and is now Vice Captain for the East Perth Eagles.

To complete the quartet is Jason Ah Sam, a proud Iliaura man from Darwin, Northern Territory. The majority of Ah Sam's basketball career was spent playing and coaching at the Darwin Basketball Association and he was also Head Coach at the Australian Junior Championship.

Toyota Australia Chief Marketing Officer, Vin Naidoo expressed sincere congratulations to Cassie, Tyson, Jason and Tahlia for being the inaugural recipients of the coaching scholarship.

"Toyota is passionate about supporting communities through grassroots sport, and we are immensely proud to be partnering with the AOC and IBA to assist the professional development of Indigenous coaches." Mr Naidoo said.

"The scholarship program will not only provide valuable skills and training to the coaches, but will also have a lasting positive impact on young Indigenous communities for years to come."

Basketball Australia CEO Matt Scriven also welcomed the scholarships.

"This is such an important initiative by AOC and IBA, we congratulate the four scholarship recipients who will make such a meaningful difference in the lives of Indigenous athletes across the country," he said.

The program will guide two female and two male coaches through developmental and experiential learning. The holistic schedule, which includes an Indigenous Leadership workshop, will cover key themes including The Science Behind Resilience and Keeping Girls in Sport, delivered in collaboration with Basketball Australia, The Centre for Healing & Justice through Sport and The University of Canberra.

Upon completion of the comprehensive program, the coaches will be accredited to deliver ongoing coach development courses in targeted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the country.

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