In 1997 the National AFL in conjunction with Rio Tinto Mining set aside $25,000.00 for the Development Manager of Northern Queensland to visit remote and isolated Indigenous Communities of the Cape York Peninsula and Torres Strait to encourage AFL participation.
In August 1998 AFL Kickstart set up the first ever AFL camp which was held In Weipa and focused on 14,15 and 16 year old boys. Indigenous AFL stars Michael Magic McLean and Gilbert McAdam attended the three day camp with participants coming from throughout the Cape and Torres Strait. Although the camp being a success there were no ongoing opportunities for the boys.
In October 1999 the Nth Queensland Development Manager coordinated a 13 day tour of the region to evaluate the prospects of further advancing the Kickstart program and get a better understanding of the logistics of the region. To assist him on the tour he engaged Indigenous lads Brian Barlow and Clinton Fatnowna from Cairns to travel with him. The trip consisted of visits to Kowanyama, Pormpuraaw, Lockhart River, Aurukun, Napranum, Lockhart River and Wujal Wujal Aboriginal Communities, Weipa and Cooktown. The tour went extremely well and was well received by the Communities. During that tour community coordinators were engaged which led to the first ever primary schools AFL camp being set up in November of that year.
In 1999/2000 AFL Queensland commissioned a review into programs coordinated by AFL regional development staff. During that review the then Development Manager of Nth Queensland recommended the placement of an Indigenous Development Officer to service the remote Indigenous communities of the region. Thankfully the AFL agreed with the recommendation and Kickstart was on the road. AFL Cape York purchased a troop carrier and employed Mr Keith Sambo a well known Indigenous man who had done a lot of work on the Cape with Sport and Recreation and mentoring, Keith commenced work in April of 2000 and did an excellent job in servicing the communities in those early years.
The focus of the Kickstart program has changed considerably since those early community visits . Since those humbling beginnings the program has grown from not just encouraging AFL participation but more importantly offering AFL as a vehicle to create personal and community change. AFL Cape York staff encourage participants to go to school, stay away from substance abuse and other drugs and discuss the negative affect violence is having in communities.
To complement our lifestyle program we have been able to develop a comprehensive participation pathway for both boys and girls at primary and secondary schooling levels.
Our representative team, the CRUSADERS were first introduced to AFL Queensland talent program back in 2001 when the under 12’s participated at the Queensland State Primary Schools AFL Championships in Cairns as the Presidents Invitational team. The under 14 Crusaders were also accepted to the Queensland Country Championships in the same year and followed by the U16 Crusaders.