Indigenous Basketball Australia, Creating Opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth on and off the Court

Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA) is a non-for-profit organisation that delivers basketball programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth at a grassroots level. Indigenous Australian basketball players are significantly under-represented at an elite level, with only 3 Indigenous men currently playing in the National Basketball League. IBA facilitates community basketball competitions, national tournaments and development camps so Indigenous people have a better chance at succeeding within the sport, and even more importantly, in life (IBA, 2022).

Patty Mills leading the way 

Patty Mills with Indigenous kids from community Patty Mills connecting with community. Courtesy of, 2020.

Indigenous Basketball Australia was established in 2020 by renowned NBA player and Olympian, Patty Mills. Mills is a Kokatha, Naghiralgal and Dauareb-Meriam man hailing from Canberra. Despite having to move to the US for his career, Mills has remained very connected to his culture, family and the Australian Indigenous community. As such, IBA is his way of giving back to the community and creating pathways, so that future generations of Indigenous basketball players can thrive and succeed (IBA, 2022).

Indigenous Community Basketball League

ICBL Dubbo

ICBL Dubbo. Courtesy of the Daily Liberal, 2021.

Last February, Patty Mills launched the Indigenous Community Basketball League (ICBL). To fund the initiative the NBA has partnered with IBA. In an interview with ABC News (2021), Mills talked about his appreciation of the NBA’s support:

"I have spent over 10 years in the NBA, an organisation that has not only supported and championed me as an athlete, but celebrated my cultural identity as an Australian, an Indigenous man of the land.”

ICBL has connected approximately 1000 Indigenous young people from 8 different locations including Cairns, Thursday Island, Logan, Dubbo, Woodville, Alice Springs, Darwin and Perth. IBA deliberately chose to run the competition outside of capital cities to increase their reach, and to give these rural and remote communities new opportunities. Tyson Demos, former Illawarra Hawks player and IBA’s director of basketball operations, informed ABC News (2021) that he has seen “some serious untapped talent” in remote Indigenous communities.

National Indigenous basketball Tournament Teams competing at the National Indigenous Basketball Tournament. Courtesy of SBS, 2022. 

IBA has partnered with local organisations and community leaders to establish the league and deliver their programs. Basketball helps teach life skills including teamwork, discipline, communication, and is a fun way for kids to get active. ICBL aims to give Indigenous kids the best possible chance of succeeding through being a part of a national league. Each player competing in the ICBL has the opportunity to be selected to present their region at the National Indigenous Basketball Tournament. This is an incredible opportunity for the Indigenous players, and is often the first time these young people will compete at a national tournament, and proudly wear their state colours (IBA, 2022).

Programs for Indigenous youth on and off the court 

Traditional Indigenous dance before a basketball game Cultural performances before a game. Courtesy of IBA Facebook, 2021.

IBA’s impact and programs go far beyond just training on the court, they are also passionate about providing education and motivation in all areas of life. Inspirational and motivational sessions take place prior to games, and they cover topics such as: traditional knowledge, culture and identity, education, health, safety and wellbeing and employment and leadership. They involve community leaders, role models and organisations both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. These sessions are designed to prepare players to transition to traditional basketball pathways, and help place them in a stronger position to manage change (IBA, 2022).

Indigenous Basketball Australian through providing new, inclusive and culturally appropriate opportunities, is making a huge impact on Indigenous youth all across Australia. Patty Mills is a true role model and inspiration to many of these young people, and through IBA Mills is able to help them succeed. Here at Yarn we are excited to see Indigenous basketball continue to grow, and for further First Nations players to be represented in Australia’s National Basketball League.