10 August 2023

VIP guests: Aurukun girls return from FIFA Women's World Cup

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Eight women are posing in front of the FIFA Women's World Cup stadium. The two women in the middle are holding a black sign that reads "aayang, we are from Aurukun" in white handwriting.

Left to right: Chantelle Walmbeng, Shanika Upton, Jennifer Ngakyunkwokka, Norma Armstrong-Ravula, Helena Armstrong-Ravula, Harriet Pootchemunka, Roxanne Yunkaporta, Zhanna Kawangka (front)

THE six Aurukun kids who were invited to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Brisbane have returned home after a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

They were one of several Indigenous community groups across Australia who were flown out to watch the Nigeria v England round of 16 contest.

Youth support worker Norma Armstrong-Ravula, who accompanied the girls on the trip, said they were “treated like VIPs”, from the welcoming committee at the airport to the lavish hotel and even the private corporate box with the Secretary General of FIFA.

For some of the girls, it was their first time travelling outside of Aurukun, so they are still processing the sheer amount of new experiences.

During the trip, they were invited to the Premier’s office, where they met Annastacia Palaszczuk and Aurukun ministerial champion Di Farmer, as well as the Nigerian team who asked them for a selfie.

The eight women stand lined up side-by-side and are accompanied by the Queensland Premier and the Aurukun Ministerial Champion

Invitation to the Premier’s office: the girls met the Queensland Premier and the Aurukun Ministerial Champion

It was also the first time for some of the girls to stay in a hotel, ride an elevator or travel in a taxi.

Norma said the girls were full of questions and that the magnitude of some of their experiences and the people they met may have gone over the girls’ heads.

“I think it’s going to be a few days of taking it all in,” she said.

But for the sport-loving girls, the “fancy” new experiences couldn’t beat the fun of watching the players on the field.

Jennifer Ngakyunkwokka, who had never left Aurukun before, said that the match was the best part of the trip.

For Harriet Pootchemunka, watching the game inspired her to continue being active in the PCYC’s indoor soccer program.

The eight women are smiling for a selfie with the FIFA secretary general. The girls are wearing matching teal hoodies and green and yellow beanies and scarves.

The girls were sporting matching hoodies, scarves and beanies gifted to them by FIFA

Police Liasion Officer Chantelle Walmbeng, who attended the game with them, said they were chosen based on who was consistently participating, volunteering and setting a good example at the PCYC.

“I’m really proud of them for how they represented their community,” she said.

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