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The University of Newcastle win overall champions at the 28th Indigenous Nationals presented by bp

For release: 30 June 2024

After four days of exceptional cultural experiences and thrilling competition across four sports, The University of Newcastle have been crowned the winners of the 28th Indigenous Nationals presented by bp. Hosted at the University of Wollongong by the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre, the event saw over 500 students and university staff members across 31 universities converge on the University of Wollongong for five days of sport and cultural experiences.

The University of Newcastle as Overall Champions of the 28th Indigenous Nationals presented by bp

The 28th Indigenous Nationals organising committee respectfully acknowledges the people of the Five Islands Dreaming, the traditional owners of the land on which the event took place and pay our respects to their Elders past, present, and emerging.


Set under an enormous circus tent that took up the entirety of a soccer field, the Opening Ceremony set the scene for a spectacular Indigenous Nationals. The theme of ‘Community’ was embedded throughout the Opening Ceremony with empowering speeches that had participants on their feet cheering, interactive performances from local Indigenous groups, and a corroboree which encouraged students, from all universities attending, to ‘stomp under Mount Geera’.

Jaymee Beveridge, Vice-President (Indigenous Strategy & Engagement), said:


“Hosting the Indigenous Nationals creates a unique opportunity to bring together this many indigenous people in one place at one time to celebrate culture and ceremony. Having annual events like this is a really great way to build up the cultural aspect of the aboriginal community that we have in Australia and puts a positive spin on what it means to be an indigenous student in Australia.”

Presentation to Vice Chancellor Professor Patricia M. Davidson

As part of the Opening Ceremony and their ongoing commitment to the Indigenous Nationals, bp Australia, the presenting partner, awarded two scholarships to two most promising indigenous university students, selected for their outstanding contributions to the community and for excellent academic achievements. This year, the selection committee were overwhelmed with the calibre of responses and awarded a third scholarship (partial) to recognise the outstanding achievements of another individual.


A list of the winners below:

  • Molly Leigh Thomson; Wiradjuri; UNSW Sydney

  • Jackson Eckford; Budawang; The University of Newcastle

  • Blossom Lake; Wiradjuri & Kamilaroi; University of Technology Sydney (partial scholarship winner)


Mark Sinderberry, Chief Executive Officer for UniSport Australia, said:


“This remarkable event has been a celebration of not only the extraordinary talents and sportsmanship of our 500 Indigenous student-athletes but also the rich cultural heritage and vibrant traditions of Australia’s First Nations people. We have witnessed outstanding performances across all six sports. As we acknowledge each team’s success, we should also take a moment to reflect on the importance of inclusivity, respect, and the enduring connection between sport and cultural identity.


I’d like to thank our hosts, The University of Wollongong, who put in months of hard work to deliver this event, and we are grateful for their efforts to provide us with a such a stunning venue that celebrates its local indigenous connections. I’d also like to thank our partner BP for supporting the event and providing scholarship opportunities for our student-athletes.


I’m proud to see such talent, perseverance, and the vibrant spirit of Indigenous culture. These events highlight the commitment to reconciliation and unity across the University sport community.”


At the Indigenous Nationals, participants compete in four sports across the week: Basketball, Netball, Volleyball and Touch Football. The Australian Catholic University (ACU) put on a phenomenal performance, in the basketball competition, to earn themselves the first champions title of the event. Led by Lily Sarra (ACU) and Zane Ratcliff (ACU), the team defeated The University of Sydney (USYD) in a thrilling competition final which had everyone on the edge of their seats.


  • Most Valuable Player for Basketball: Lily Sarra, Australian Catholic University

  • Spirit of the Sport – Basketball: Jack Sampi, Deakin University

Australian Catholic University as Basketball Champions

In the netball competition, former champions (2023) Monash University (MON) attempted to go back-to-back to defend their title but fell short of one-point in their round match against The University of Adelaide (AU) who were just a tad stronger. Come the medal match, it was a tight tussle in the first half between AU and The University of Newcastle (UON) with the game going point-for-point, however, the athletic prowess of Katie Love (UON) sparked a shift in momentum which led to a surge to gold in the last quarter.  

  • Most Valuable Player for Netball:  Kate Love, The University of Newcastle; Terri-Anne Logan, Deakin University

  • Spirit of the Sport – Netball: Ethan Graham, University of Wollongong


Following the match, we spoke to Indianna Eckford from The University of Newcastle (UON) who exclaimed about her first-time experience at this event.


“It's my first year at Indigenous Nationals and it’s been great to immerse myself in the culture around the games. I love that everyone has been so supportive and encouraging of one another both on and off the field. It creates such a positive and inclusive environment to be a part of, there’s nothing else like it.


This event really highlights the strong connection between sport and culture that is so important within Indigenous communities. Outside mob, it can sometimes be challenging to connect with other people, but here there’s a real sense of community and a space for us to celebrate our culture too.”

The University of Newcastle as Netball Champions

With tired legs and aching bodies, teams mustered up for the third day of the event, the volleyball competition.  The University of Queensland (UQ) went through the pool stages, the quarter finals, and the semi-finals in straight sets to secure their berth in the medal match against USYD. Eager for a taste of gold, Jy Palson (USYD) fired off powerful serves against the purple university to win the first set. The UQ team rallied together at the changing of ends to win the second set, clawing their way back into the game. With strength and great determination, UQ put on a brilliant display of volleyball, in the last set, to seal the deal and win overall Volleyball champions.


  • Most Valuable Player for Volleyball: Jy Palson, The University of Sydney

  • Spirit of the Sport – Volleyball: Gagara Farrawell, The University of Sydney

The University of Queensland as Volleyball Champions

Ahead of the fourth day of competition, ACU and UON were both tied on points to win overall champion university for the 28th Indigenous Nationals presented by bp. Both teams had secured a place in the semi-finals playing clinical touch football that were unmatched by their opponents. However, the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) stunted a three-year grand final rivalry between ACU and UON, after upsetting ACU in the semi-finals. A play-for-play final between the Novocastrians and the Queenslanders had crowds on the edge of their seats, emulating the Men’s State of Origin from the previous night. Down to the wire, UON surged home with two unanswered tries to win the game and overall champion university.


  • Most Valuable Player for Touch Football: Lily Searston, Queensland University of Technology

  • Spirit of the Sport – Touch Football: Siegfried Beschel; Queensland University of Technology


In addition to the overall champion university award, a spirit award, ‘The Spirit of the Games’ is awarded to the university who consistently displays the values of the event throughout the week. This award is voted on by university team managers and UniSport event staff. This year, The Spirit of the Games was awarded to La Trobe University. We spoke to La Trobe University student Renee Indich Navon on her time on the event and its meaning to her personally.


“This year’s Indigenous Nationals has been a 10 out of 10 experience! It’s all about having fun, making new friends, and just getting along with everyone. It’s more than I ever could have asked for.


Winning the Spirit Award highlights the importance of the small things in life like getting along with one another and just having fun. There are not many opportunities you get to meet new people who share your same interests and culture, so it’s been heartwarming to experience.”


The 29th Indigenous Nationals hosts will be confirmed in the following weeks. Stay tuned on our social media to find out who the host will be.

La Trobe University as Spirit of the Games Winners

About the Indigenous Nationals 

National Indigenous Tertiary Education Student Games (NITESG) began in 1996 as a joint class project between 13 students enrolled in a Diploma of Aboriginal Studies (Community Recreation) at the then Wollotuka School for Aboriginal Studies, The University of Newcastle.


Now referred to as Indigenous Nationals, the event is a week-long multisport competition for indigenous student-athletes. The annual event aims to bring together student-athletes from universities across Australia to compete in a variety of sports and crown one university team the champion of the games. Indigenous Nationals is an amazing environment to not only celebrate the rich sporting culture of indigenous Australia but to also acknowledge the heritage and history of the participating student-athletes.  


About UniSport  

UniSport Australia (UniSport) is the peak body for university sport in Australia. 42 universities are members of UniSport, representing a population of over one million students. UniSport’s ambition is to become an integral partner to Australian universities and to deliver an outstanding student experience at our national intervarsity competitions.   


More information on UniSport: 



For more information please contact:  


Dylan Le

National Championships Lead

Mobile: 0452 546 647

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