We just got home from the 2023 Lilla Sports & Storytelling Festival and it was a tremendous success! On Wednesday 11 October, 40 students arrived at Lilla from Papunya and Areyonga School for the 3-day jam-packed festival.

We played plenty of soccer, danced and giggled our way through drama activities with Poetry in Action, learnt some new footy skills with NT AFL, went on a very special cultural walk around Lilla, and made some lifelong friends along the way; all the while learning that 'It's cool to go to school!'

Children and volunteers play a sunset soccer game on the first day of the festival

After getting settled in to camp, we broke the ice with a game of Bull Rush, and then headed for some shade in the heat of the day to do some drama activities with Poetry in Action, followed by a sunset game of soccer. Spirits were high and smiles beamed all around as the children started to make new friends and get to know the volunteers.

After dinner, the children were welcomed to Country by the Traditional Owners at Lilla in a smoking ceremony. Then we all played some night time quiet Olympics and glowstick games before heading to bed, full of excitement and joy.

Children are welcomed to Country by Traditional Owners

After everyone trickled in with sleepy eyes for breakfast, Vera, a Traditional Owner, took the children on a special walk around the cultural sites of Lilla. Then back to camp for a footy clinic with NT AFL, with a big game at the end where teamwork and good sportsmanship was evident all round. 

After lunch, we all sat together and had a talk about how 'it's cool to go to school', where the volunteers, local rangers, business owners from Kings Canyon Resort and a high-school student from the Watarrka region who is soon to complete Year 12 and go on to university all spoke about the opportunities that come from going to school and the importance of an education. Everyone left the talk with bright eyes and inspired thoughts.

Vera speaks to the children about a cultural site at Lilla


NT AFL footy clinic

In the afternoon, we split into small groups for some activities, including skipping, reading, cooking, arts and crafts and Poetry in Action drama games. After some yummy dinner prepared by the Remote Tours NT team, we all sat around the fire and listened to Tana, an elder, speak in both English and Luritja dialect to the children about the importance of walking two paths in life; in remaining proud and grounded in culture and community, as well as going to school, getting an education and learning about the world. 

Children show off their new footballs donated by the Have a Ball Foundation

On the third morning we did some athletics activities after breakfast before packing down camp and gathering together one last time for some morning tea and a closing ceremony where all the children received a participation certificate and a tote bag of their own design with some fun gifts inside, including a football donated by the Have a Ball Foundation. We all said our bittersweet goodbyes, sad to be leaving Lilla and all our new friends but excited to go to school and come back next year and do it all again!

Group photo


The Watarrka Foundation would like to extend a huge thank you to:

  • Dentons for sponsoring the festival
  • Poetry in Action for organising such fun and educational drama workshops
  • NT AFL for coming out and showing us all and thing or two about footy
  • The Have a Ball Foundation for generously donating footballs for all the children to take home
  • The 14 volunteers who came from all over Australia from Dentons, Commonwealth Bank, Post Potion, Australian Indigenous Governance Institute, PMG Group, St. Catherines Primary School, Ipswich Flexible Learning Centre, Abbotsford Community Centre and the Watarrka Foundation
  • The rangers from NT Department of Environment, Parks and Water Security and business owners and staff from Kings Canyon Resort for taking the time to speak to the children about the importance of school attendance
  • The teachers and elders from Papunya and Areyonga for bringing their students to Lilla and helping the festival run smoothly
  • The Remote Tours NT team who hosted us all at camp
  • All the supporters of the Watarrka Foundation, whose contributions helped to make this year's festival a reality
  • and most importantly to the Traditional Owners at Lilla for welcoming us and having us all on Country

Stay tuned to learn more about this year's Sports & Storytelling Festival in the coming weeks!

To support the Foundation and our projects within the Northern Territory, make a donation at www.givenow.com.au/watarrkafoundation

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