Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Territory kids to kick goals at new AFL Learning Centre

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Simon Crean MP, Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government
    The Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Indigenous Health, Member for Lingiari
    The Hon Paul Henderson MLA, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory
    Gillon McLachlan, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the AFL
    Trish Crossin, Senator for the Northern Territory

Partnership investment combined with the wisdom, vision and passion of AFL great Michael Long will deliver a new state-of-the-art learning and leadership centre for young Territorians.

In Darwin today, Federal Ministers Simon Crean and Warren Snowdon joined NT Chief Minister Paul Henderson, Michael Long, the AFL and NT Senator Trish Crossin to announce $15 million for the Michael Long NT Thunder Learning and Leadership Centre.

Mr Crean said a strong investment partnership between the Federal and Territory governments and the AFL will bring the centre to life.

“The Federal Government is investing $11 million in the centre at TIO Stadium – $7.5 million through round two of the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) and $3.5 million through the Aboriginals Benefit Account, which distributes royalties from mining on Aboriginal land,” Mr Crean said.

“This centre is about developing passion for sport but channelling it into life skills to reinforce the importance of education and closing the gap.

“This project joins the dots between having broad benefits for young Territorians, leveraging other funding sources and delivering a strong social and economic dividend. It’s also another example of a project located in a capital city, but one that services remote centres right across the Territory.

“RDAF is more than a regional investment program, it is driving cultural change – demonstrating what is possible when you prioritise, build partnerships and leverage funding from a range of sources.

“This project was unsuccessful in the first round of RDAF, but the applicants learnt from the feedback, strengthened the partnership and persisted with the project. Partnership and persistence have paid dividends.”

Ms Macklin said the $3.5 million from the Aboriginals Benefit Account would enable the centre to provide a caring and supportive environment for remote Aboriginal students to undertake their studies and experience life in a major urban area.

“A key focus of the centre will be working with Aboriginal students from remote locations to increase their confidence and participation at school,” Ms Macklin said.

“Encouraging young people, particularly those from remote communities, to go to school regularly gives them the best start for a bright future.”

The Aboriginals Benefit Account holds and distributes statutory royalty equivalent monies generated from mining on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory for projects that benefit Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.

Mr Henderson said the centre will discover and support the future stars of the AFL.

“The Territory is known for producing the most talented AFL players in the country and we’re investing $2.5 million in this facility to educate and train the AFL stars of tomorrow in our own backyard,” Mr Henderson said.

“The Territory has a bright future and so do Territory kids – this centre will not only provide them with the opportunity to develop their sporting skills and career, it will also provide unique education and training programs to help with future employment opportunities.”

The AFL has invested $1.5 million into the project, underlining the importance of the Northern Territory to the code. Acting Chief Executive Officer of the AFL Gillon McLachlan sees the Learning and Leadership Centre as a significant development for AFL football in the Territory.

“The Northern Territory has long been a producer of elite talent, along with mass community engagement in football,” Mr McLachlan said.

“The Learning and Leadership Centre ties these two aspects together to strengthen football in the Territory and create outcomes in education and employment that promise widespread social benefit.

“We’re proud to stand alongside the Australian and Northern Territory Governments in helping make Michael Long’s vision a reality.”

The Michael Long centre will include state of the art facilities including:

  • Gymnasium;
  • Swimming pool and recovery facilities;
  • Lecture theatres and classrooms; and
  • Accommodation for 70.

Essendon great Michael Long said the new academy will assist young Territorians to become strong role models, having a positive influence on their peers.

“The Learning and Leadership Centre has been my dream for many years, and it will be a place where Territory kids can come to learn in a safe, modern environment but where they will also be immersed in footy, as it is our love of our national sport that unites us all,” Long said.

“The centre will become a vital focal point for young Indigenous Territorians, equipping them with the skills to become leaders.

“I am profoundly grateful for the support provided by the Federal Government, the NT Government, the Aboriginals Benefit Account committee and the AFL, who share my vision and passion for the project.”

Mr Snowdon said football has an incredibly binding role in bush communities and benefits that go far beyond the field.

“Harnessing kids’ love for football and linking it to improving education outcomes is a practical way to boost literacy, numeracy and attendance amongst Aboriginal children,” he said.

“This centre will play a critical role in supporting kids both on the footy field and in the classroom.”

Senator Crossin said RDAF was already making a significant difference around regional Australia with $150 million distributed to 35 projects through Round One last year including $6.75 million for Northern Territory projects.

“Projects such as the Michael Long centre have been given the green light because they leverage partnership and demonstrate clear long-term benefits for the community, including creating jobs.”

Construction on the new centre will begin in coming months, and is scheduled for completion late next year.

More information on RDAF can be found at