Published: 8 Mar 2022
Growing up, Brigitte Linares loved watching the women in her family play football.
Following in the footsteps of her mum and aunties, the proud Gunditjmara woman plays football for the Fitzroy Stars - an Aboriginal football and netball club in the suburb of Thornbury in Melbourne’s north.
Brigitte has been involved with the club since she was six years old. Like many Fitzroy Stars members, it’s the sense of belonging, identity and community that has encouraged her to stick around.
“It’s more than a club. It’s more like a community and a home,” she said.
“They come here to find their cultural sense of belonging.
“We welcome young people who are lost, who grow up in the justice system and we approach Fitzroy Stars like a home base in the northern community.”
Now 30, Brigitte values her club and its facilities. And she’s excited about the new Aboriginal Women and Girls Sport and Wellness Centre being built at their home ground, Sir Doug Nichols Sporting Complex.
It’s on the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation and is the first centre of its kind in Australia. It will offer health and wellbeing services, education and sports training to Aboriginal women and girls. It will also have four new AFL-standard female-friendly changerooms, a gym, umpire change room, and consulting rooms.
It marks an exciting new chapter for the Fitzroy Stars and the local Aboriginal Community.
“We can’t wait to get in there and use it,” Brigitte said.
“It’s going to attract so many more community members to want to be involved in the Fitzroy Stars.
“I think just being able to have something that’s all ours and something we can use any time we want will be fantastic.”
Construction on the centre began in March this year. It’s expected to be completed by January 2023.
It has received $5.35 million from the Victorian Government. This includes $3.9 million from the Community Sports Infrastructure Stimulus Program and $1.45 million from the Aboriginal Community Infrastructure Program. Darebin City Council and the Aboriginal Advancement League also invested $200,000 each.
Once it’s finished, the centre will build on the sense of belonging, community and family that is so key to members like Brigitte.
“The new centre will make the women feel even more excited about coming to Fitzroy Stars. They’ll have a variety of support and great facilities.”