17 years since inception, Power Community Limited’s (PCL) industry leading Santos Aboriginal Power Cup (SAPC) is set to write an exciting new chapter in its history as it prepares to expand into the Northern Territory and welcome a record 670 students into the program. 

Ahead of the expansion, the club has reflected on the history of Port Adelaide’s not-for-profit program, how it started, where it's going, and the significance of the outcomes that now underpin the industry-leading program. 

In 2007, the Attorney-General’s Department acted on a recommendation from social policy and reform advocate, Monsignor David Cappo to join forces to tackle issues related to a significant proportion of First Nations young people and make critical change.

At the time, young First Nations people and crime were heavily linked. In Mr. Cappo’s ‘Break the Cycle Report’ which delved into the issue, he called for sports and education to be paired in what he described as critical in channeling young First Nation’s people into positive behaviours. 

Power Community Limited were the answer to those calls. 

The subsequent development of the SAPC program was a joint initiative between the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) and the Port Adelaide Football Club, with initial support from the SANFL, and six Government agencies including the South Australian Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy (SAASTA). 

The SAPC program concept was developed with education on key societal challenges for First Nation students at its core, using both AFL players to deliver key messages, and a competitive AFL carnival as the hook.

A distinguishable feature of the model in successfully reengaging students is the requirement of meeting key performance indicators across behaviour and education to attend an AFL carnival. 

Take a look at the impact of the Santos Aboriginal Power Cup.

Over the years, the SAPC remained in partnership with SAASTA, while also welcoming new partners into the fold to facilitate growth. Most notably, naming rights and major partner Santos who have been critical to the growth and success of the program over the years. 

Importantly, the program curriculum was adapted in line with changes in both the football landscape in SA, and the societal challenges young First Nations people faced.

In 2024, the SAPC prospectus explores and embraces Aboriginal culture and has been carefully designed to address National Closing the Gap targets aligned to health, wellbeing, education, employment, and economic participation. 

And it’s working.

SAPC’s growing list of accolades over the past 17 years are significant.

Some noteworthy honours include being recognised as a key factor in helping close the gap, 96 per cent of First Nations students attaining SACE credits that contribute to Year 12 attainment, being deemed industry-leading by peers, and holding the title of the longest running joint education and AFL community program for Aboriginal students in the Australian professional sports industry.

Adding to that list is the expansion outside of regional, remote, and metro SA into the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands with PCL delivering the program on the lands and bringing students to Adelaide for the annual carnival and to attend a home AFL game. 

PCL will now add the NT to its expansion list, engaging schools in the Top End and will hit the classrooms in the back half of 2024.

The NT expansion is a significant milestone for Port Adelaide’s not-for-profit and its partners, and one that couldn’t be timelier.

It’s been a project developed across multiple years after student attendance continued to be a significant and increasing challenge for NT based schools. 

To gain a better understanding of the current challenges schools in the country's Top End are facing, PCL engaged with teachers, schools, and community members so the SAPC program curriculum could be appropriately adapted to effectively address, and subsequently make change in the required areas.

The program will be implemented in two schools initially, with the intention to expand from 2025 and beyond.

While the program and the curriculum of the SAPC has holistically evolved, one thing has remained constant: education is and will always be paramount. 

PCL has remained steadfast in their approach to prioritise education, and purely use football as the critical hook to engage students. 

An approach that is now backed by close to two decades of genuine positive outcomes in thousands of First Nations students. 

The impact of the Santos Aboriginal Power Cup cannot be understated.