Jordy Mifsud

Jordy Mifsud is a Gunditjmarra, Peek Whurrong and Maltese woman who has done amazing work in the AFLW and the Victorian Aboriginal community over the past decade. As one of Opening The Doors Foundation alumni, she is now a leader for many Aboriginal students and aspiring athletes. We had a chance to catch up last month and reflect on her story from school to now as a young Aboriginal woman living in Naarm, on what inspires her and on Opening The Doors Foundation.

Jordy has been thriving in the VFL over the past two years, both as a leader of youth and a player. This year she became the first Indigenous woman to win Best and Fairest in the AFLW Hawthorn club.

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"I wanted to get into footy after I finished high school because women’s football was really starting to pick up at that point. Once I started playing footy and realised I was quite good at it, I was like ‘OK, let’s see how far this can go’. Then it took me a little while, for various reasons, to get involved. I’ve just had a lot of stuff happen in my life and it’s taken me a longer than I would have hoped or expected to get to where I am now but I’ve been part of the VFL system in the last 24 months.

Being part of the VFL now and seeing a pathway for progression has definitely driven my passion to want to make it in the AFL. The main reason I want to make it is that it’s the highest level of footy and having that kind of platform would be beneficial to drive a lot of the messages that I want to drive, particularly in the Indigenous justice space.

I was the first Indigenous woman to win Best and Fairest at Hawthorn. I didn’t really think about it in that way until I got asked what it meant to me when I was giving speeches and I got quite emotional. For me, I just hope it inspired other young Aboriginal girls to follow their passion for footy or whatever other sport it is. I think that representation is really important; for them to see that they can achieve something like that and even go to the next level, that representation is so critical. Unless you can see yourself in someone else’s shoes you just don’t think it’s a possibility

In the last few years, my passion for wanting to make it in women’s footy has grown. I think that’s been from the rapid growth in women’s football since the AFLW has been implemented and seeing the amazing impact it’s had for women all over Australia and for young girls’ confidence in wanting to pursue a career in a predominantly male sport."

Hover over the bubbles below to see Jordy's words.

Working with community makes work so much easier. You’re surrounded by mob. I’ve worked at VAEI. I came from VACCHO before this. You feel at home. It doesn’t feel like work really. I mean the work’s there but you get it done.  You continue to learn culturally and continue to grow as an individual. It feeds my soul a lot being part of those organisations and being surrounded by those kinds of people.

I really do love working with kids, particularly with young Aboriginal kids. I don’t know exactly in what kind of field or what that looks like. I want to work wherever I can have the biggest impact. Particularly for Indigenous people, there’s still a lot of wrongs that need to be righted. If it happens to be working with kids as well, that would be an extra bonus. Kids are sponges right. They just absorb information and are so easy to assist. I take great pride in a lot of the mentoring work that I do. It’s so easy. You just call up your little sister and have a yarn and support them during whatever they’re going through.

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Jordy has been working in a variety of roles using her platform to support the Aboriginal community, including as part of the First Peoples Assembly. She is currently a Policy Advisor at the Business Council of Australia. In her short career, she has already done a lot, though this is just the beginning.

Jordy now works with the Woomeras Program as a mentor for young Indigenous girls in the AFL, a program she was a part of back in school.

We bring the girls together in different cities across Australia and for some of them it’s the first time that they’ve ever gotten on a plane. It’s pretty phenomenal. Many kids stay in their home towns and don’t really get to see anything outside of that. If they get to a certain point in their lives and they’ve never left home, they end up not leaving. So giving them that type of experience, whether it’s just getting three hours away from home or getting interstate or even going overseas, just opens so many doors. At least just in their minds it gives them the idea that there’s so much more to the world than what they know. It’s definitely a very humbling experience to meet some of these girls and see the independence they gain by getting on a plane by themselves to come and meet with people they’ve never met before. It’s great to see how impactful these types of opportunities are for young kids.

I was actually in the inaugural year of the Woomeras when I was back in high school, when I was 17. We had the funding at the time to go overseas so we went over to New Zealand and did a cultural tour over there for 10 days. That was the first time about 75 percent of the team had been overseas. Things like that, it’s so great to be a part of now as a coach.

Her experience at Star of the Sea College (Star) throughout secondary school provided some great opportunities.

Here is her advice for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait students who are currently in school.

From my dad we found out about Opening The Doors Foundation (OTDF).  I wanted to go on exchange to Japan at the end of Year 11 and OTDF helped to fund a lot of that trip for me. Without the support of OTDF, I wouldn’t have been able to go on exchange to Japan for three weeks. I look back and it’s still one of the best times of my life going over there and I really want to go back. It’s such a beautiful country. It’s rich in culture which obviously I resonate pretty highly with. I got to come in for an OTFD dinner once I came back and do a presentation about my trip and meet some of the trustees.  I met Aunty Vicki at that dinner and got to meet some of the staff at the Foundation too. So through that I became aware of the Foundation and some of the amazing support it has provided students like myself.

The support for school camps and excursions is vital. Particularly when some students are faced with a lot of challenges at home, it’s very difficult being stuck in that type of environment as much as they might love their families. Giving them a camp and excursion experience can make such a massive difference to kids’ lives.

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There were quite a few people. A lot of the women in my family. My mum’s mum was a really big activist for women’s participation in sport. She was from a small country town in south-west Victoria and she started a lot of the women’s teams in netball, badminton and squash down in that town. Just seeing good role models like her as a woman in sport really inspired me to play sport. I started in soccer when I was four, thanks to people like her and my mum who really drove my passion to continue that. My nana had like 10 different jobs and seeing the amount of hard work she put into her community and into other people inspired me to want to be basically her. That’s always encouraged me to take on all these opportunities that I get presented with. I have a lot of them and it’s hard to juggle sometimes but it’s definitely what inspired me to want to give back to other people. My mum as well, just seeing how much time and effort she put into driving us four kids around to different sports every day of the week is insane. I don’t know how she did it whilst my dad was off working.

In another sense, my dad and my great uncle, Uncle Rob Lowe, inspired me. They’ve always been pretty big activists in the Indigenous affairs space. So from an early age, seeing the impact they had in the Aboriginal community, inspired me to want to continue that work. Still today, they’re both doing amazing stuff for local and broader Aboriginal communities across the country. Seeing their passion for culture really drove my passion and drove me to be really proud of it. I know a lot of young, and even older, Aboriginal people are told to hide that part of themselves in order to not face the backlash and racism. I’m really thankful to them and to my nana for really encouraging me to be part of my culture and proud of that part of my identity.

Jordy talked to us about who inspired her.

As a Year 11 student, the Foundation supported Jordy to go to Japan with her school.

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We were the only Aboriginal kids there which wasn’t too bad because it empowered us to drive Indigenous education amongst our peers and our teachers so that was really empowering in itself. It would have been great to have some other Aboriginal kids at school with us.  It’s good to see that the school has been able to develop in this space and now donates to OTDF.

They had a lot of opportunities for us to participate in and were supportive of us throughout our high school. I know Ms Hans who was leading social justice work at Star, she was really supportive of us being an Indigenous family to participate during Reconciliation Week.  My nan would bring in some of our traditional artefacts and old pictures of our family up on the Framlingham Mission and do a tour with them all at lunchtime with anyone who would show up and was interested to talk through what the different things were. We had spears and different things like that. We got to raise the flag with my nan, then we got to speak at assembly in front of the whole school. The teachers in general were really supportive of us being Indigenous and doing whatever was appropriate.

I really immersed myself in sport. I was basically playing sport every week, every term. I think that really enabled me to become confident in myself and my abilities. I met some really important people through that. The majority of my teachers were really good and the whole environment was really positive for me as an individual.

The head of sport and staff were really good and they had a great sport program. I was able to go and represent the Star at the Girls Sport Victoria (GSV) Competition. So we played all the other private Catholic girls’ schools across Melbourne. Through that, I was able to go interstate and represent the GSV in soccer. That was driven purely by the teachers in that department.

 

First term I played softball, then I played hockey second term. Then soccer and athletics third term and fourth term, generally cricket. It kind of all came about when I was in Year 7 and they would call over the announcement, ‘we’re holding year 7 trials for this’ and at the time I thought, ‘why not? I’ll go try, I’ve never played this sport before’. Being coordinated and having some sport experience, I took to sport quite easily. I ended up playing athletics, soccer, hockey and softball for six years all the way through to Year 12. Sport was a really good outlet for me and a really good way for me to meet different people and create different friendships. I just got involved as much as I could to be honest.

Women’s footy wasn’t a thing anyone really talked about and it wasn’t really an option that I necessarily thought was viable to me as a teenager. We only started playing footy in Year 10 through to Year 12. We had maybe five games a year when you would just show up and play. We weren’t playing for any competition.

Looking back, I probably limited myself in a lot of things because I just didn’t believe that I was good enough or would fit in and just didn’t have the confidence that I probably should have had. I think it has a lot to do with society and its pressures, particularly being a young girl at an all-girls school. My best piece of advice is to try and ignore all those negative thoughts. Just give everything your all and apply yourself as much as you can to all the different opportunities that present themselves to you because you never know what might happen. You might fail at something but at least you know you’ve given it your all and looking back, you’ll have no regrets. Particularly nowadays with the extra pressure that technology brings to us, try to numb the noise a little bit and be more confident in yourselves. Really just apply yourselves as much as you can.

Don’t be afraid to ask for support. I think a lot of people are too concerned about what people might think of them if they reach out, particularly in our community. There’s no shame in asking for help. Definitely lean on OTDF and other foundations that can provide any support. It can change your life.

I would always encourage kids, even adults, to get into sports because I think they have so many positive benefits. Not just physically but also emotionally and socially. It’s also a really great opportunity for you to develop your social skills. I think sport in itself is just a great opportunity for kids like me to grow their confidence. You walk onto a football field and everyone’s equal. There’s no difference in colour and everyone gets on and you leave all that other stuff behind you. For young Indigenous kids, particularly with the AFL, there are so many amazing opportunities that come through. The Woomeras, in particular, is a really great opportunity to meet different young Aboriginal girls from across the country that you get to share stories with and get to share your culture with as well.

Here is her advice for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait students who are currently in school.

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