Indigenous students and high schools came together on Tuesday for the start of the week-long Illawarra NAIDOC touch football competition.
Eight schools, 15 teams and 135 boys and girls played in a round robin competition at Illawarra Sports High School with the winning team receiving a trophy and medals.
The welcome to the country ceremony was conducted by community elder Uncle Ruben Brown.
Aboriginal Educational Officer, Lisa Poole Lock said NAIDOC week was about celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.
‘‘It is a gathering of all Indigenous communities coming together to celebrate NAIDOC week,’’ Ms Lock said.
‘‘It gives the kids an opportunity to be proud of their culture and strengthen the friendships they have with other Aboriginal children and the community.
‘‘All Indigenous kids can relate to sport and they have a passion for it. They should be proud of their abilities and they have good Aboriginal sporting role models to look up too.’’
The high school students the Mercury spoke to said they enjoyed playing in the competition.
‘‘Playing footy keeps us healthy, fit and active and we get to make new friends,’’ Warrawong High School’s Kieren Worthington, 15, said.
‘‘We can celebrate our culture and remember people who fought for our Indigenous rights,’’ Warilla High School’s Solomon Olive, 14, said.