The Martu people of the Western Desert have lived in the Pilbara region for more than 40,000 years. Today there are more than 31 Aboriginal or cultural language groups across the region, from Kunawarritji to Punmu, Nullagine, Warralong, Cotton Creek to Jigalong. As such, Pilbara and Aboriginal culture, social systems, kinship networks and beliefs remain strong.
So too is sport and in particular, Aussie Rules football.
The Western Desert Football League is arguably the most remote football league in Australia, possibly the world. It’s a league characterised by barefoot athletes racing across red dirt footy fields fiercely contesting every bounce of the ball. Not surprisingly, the Western Desert produces a wealth of talent, perhaps most recently demonstrated by Carl Petersen, a local who played for Claremont and then Hawthorn.
Footy, like a host of other sports played in the Pilbara, serves an important community development role, bringing people from all over the region together through annual events like the Western Desert Sports Carnival.
Footy can be found just about anywhere in Australia and if this image, taken in Nullagine, is any indication, the game is alive and well amongst the Martu people of the Western Desert.