History of SSNT - Key Points:

  • Late 1960s sport was an important but informal aspect in Northern Territory schools.
  • Early 1970s Darwin Primary and Darwin Secondary School Sport Associations formed.
  • First interstate NT representative schools team competed in National Schools Championship, Australian Football secondary boys 1974s.
  • After Cyclone Tracy NT Primary Schools Amateur Sports Association (NTPSASA) and NT Secondary Schools Sports Association (NTSSSA) formed.
  • 1980 School Sport Australia formed.
  • 1986 School Sport NT Council formed with primary / secondary management committees.
  • 1991 NTPSASA became NT Primary Schools Sports Association (NTPSSA)
  • 2006 NT Department of Education appointed six regional Physical Education Coordinators (PECs) and a Senior PEC.
  • 2020 Sport Education Unit established bringing together SSNT and the six regional Sport Education Coordinators (formerly PECs and School Sport Coordinators)

During the late nineteen sixties, sport was an important part of the Northern Territory schools program. Despite this, sporting competition between schools was fairly informal. Interschool sport was played in the Darwin area on a weekly basis as part of the school physical education program. It was up to the schools to arrange competitions amongst themselves. The Department of Education provided interschool bus transport. There was little organised in other centres and in remote areas this was almost impossible.

In the early nineteen seventies, the Darwin Primary School Sports Association (DPSSA), made up of a group of volunteer teachers, organised a week long interschool competition for all Northern Territory primary schools. Approximately 600 students attended from both government and non-government schools. Approximately ten sports were offered including Australian Football, Basketball, Softball, Netball, and Hockey. They were timetabled so that students could play more than just one sport. The association at this stage was fairly informal but it was strengthened by the arrival of several South Australian teachers who were interested in sport. Interest was also growing in these sports competitions and schools outside of the Darwin area began to participate.

The Darwin Secondary School Sports Association (DSSSA), also a group of volunteer teachers, organised an annual multi-sport exchange between Darwin High, Alice Springs High and Mount Isa High (in Queensland) to provide practical outcomes for the PE program around the same time. Prior to Cyclone Tracy regular secondary inter-school sport took place between five secondary schools in the Darwin area: Darwin High School, Nightcliff High School, Casuarina High School, Kormilda High School, and St. Johns College who competed against one another in a series of different sports on a weekly basis.

The first interstate involvement for a Northern Territory school sport team was in Brisbane in 1974. Les Rauert (a Physical Education teacher at Nightcliff High School) was asked by the Northern Territory Football League to put together a Northern Territory secondary school boys Australian Football team and take them to the Australian Secondary Schools Championships. Les, along with Keiran Cassidy, organised the team and took them to Brisbane where they became the first Northern Territory team to participate in a National Schools Championship.

On Christmas Eve, 1974, Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin, causing enormous destruction. As a result, several schools were destroyed, leaving many teachers without positions, and a surplus of senior positions at the schools that were still operational. Wally Mauger was in this latter position (a supernumerary assistant principal), and as an alternative to returning to this situation, he had the idea of becoming a recreational officer to develop recreational activities for children after school. Thus in 1975, after approaching the Education Department, Wally was released from his position and appointed as Education Advisor for Sport and Recreation Programs to coordinate after school sport.

A submission was made to the Education Department to hold a conference, with the aim of establishing a Northern Territory Primary Schools Amateur Sports Association (NTPSASA). Through phone calls, letters, and word of mouth, key persons from different areas of the Northern Territory became interested in attending this conference.

The conference was held on the ‘Patris’, a post Cyclone Tracy accommodation ship for public servants, including teachers. Approximately fifteen to eighteen people attended the conference, which lasted for a week. Government funding enabled Frank Murphy, the secretary of the South Australian Primary School Sports Association, to attend the conference. He presented the South Australian Constitution and format to the conference.

After some discussion a decision was made to form an association in the Northern Territory. A constitution was drawn up and operational aspects discussed. One important decision made was the decision to regionalise. After the conference, people returned to their respective areas and formed regions. Six regions were initially formed. These were: Darwin; Alice Springs; Gove- Groote; Arnhem; Katherine; and Tennant Creek. Thus, with the formation of the NTPSASA came the beginning of competitive sport in the Northern Territory, being played by regions not schools.

At the end of 1975 Les Rauert took over as Education Advisor for Sport and Recreation Programs. In response to the needs of schools, the department established this as a full time position with a separate operational budget line to coordinate school sport and send interstate teams to School Sport Australia Championships and Exchanges. The school sport program coordination was later included into the duties of the Senior PE and Health Advisor and the role reflected other Australian states’ considered best PE practice. It later became the role of Executive Officer School Sport NT (SSNT).

The Northern Territory joined the Australian Primary Schools Sports Association in 1975 and sent teams to Adelaide to play in the Australian Football and Netball Exchanges, fully funded by the department.

A secondary boys Australian Football team attended the Australian Secondary Schools Championships again in 1975, the year after the Cyclone. There was still no formalised basis for selecting a team at this time. It was towards the end of 1975 that the Northern Territory Secondary Schools Sports Association was formed.
In the early part of 1976, interest in sending teams to participate in their respective Australian Schools Championships was growing. The lack of a formalised selection process remained a problem. In June, 1976, the annual three-way exchange was held in Mount Isa. However, by now it had become a five-way exchange, with Nightcliff High School and Casuarina High School also participating. It was during this exchange, at a meeting held in a Motel room in Mount Isa, that the decision was made to form the Northern Territory Secondary School Sports Association (NTSSSA). Three people were asked to formalise the new organisation, Les Rauert, Terry Connors and Vicki Zadow.

There were two major reasons for forming the NTSSSA, these were:

  1. They were being asked to pick inter-state teams but had no organised means of selection
  2. The five way exchange was too large and becoming unworkable.

The two associations were supported and funded by the department to select teams at the interstate and interschool levels. Wally Mauger was the first President of the NTPSASA and Ralph Wiese was the first President of NTSSSA.

In the early days of the NTSSSA carnivals were held primarily for the selection of Northern Territory teams to participate in the National Schools Championships. However, it wasn’t very long before these carnivals were held in their own right, as Northern Territory Championships.

In 1980 School Sport Australia (SSA) was formed. SSA was directly responsible to the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) through the Australian Education Systems Officials Committee (AESOC). The department and School Sport NT became financial members of SSA. Quote from the department ‘Directions for the 80s’ policy:

“The NT Education System shall provide programs which ensure that students in both rural and urban areas have similar opportunities for participation in national sporting and cultural events to their counterparts in other parts of Australia.”

The continued growth in the number of sports offered and in numbers of participants with an emphasis on student needs, rather than just separate primary and secondary needs resulted in the need to have one voice. Similarities between the primary and secondary programs were highlighted.

In 1986, acting on advice from the department Executive, SSNT became incorporated under the Associations Act with its own constitution so it could legitimately raise funds. The growth of the program, the increased participation, the development of school Councils and the changes to the department budget structure necessitated this strategy. The School Sport NT (SSNT) Council was formed with Primary and Secondary Management Committees and given the charter to conduct school sport on behalf of the department for both primary and secondary government and non-government school students, at regional, the NT and interstate levels. Governance representation included government and non-government, the department, the Council of Government Schools Organisation (COGSO), State Sporting Organisations (SSO) and remote representatives. Brian Deslandes was the first president of SSNT.

Since then SSNT has operated with an Executive Officer funded by the NT Department of Education. This was a similar arrangement to other states, although they had two executive Officers due to their much larger student numbers. The Executive Officers duties included:

  • endorsement of sports on the annual program
  • approval of interstate team official appointments
  • determination of an annual budget allocation

Partnerships with SSO were developed to share resources and strongly encouraged by the department. A four tiered program of development for 10-19yr olds using sport as the delivery vehicle for educational outcomes at the intraschool, interschool, inter-region and interstate levels was endorsed by the department.

At the beginning of 1991 the NTPSASA changed its name to become the Northern Territory Primary School Sports Association (NTPSSA). There were then ten regions (Darwin, Alice Springs, Barkly, Rivers, TERAS, Gove, GERRSA, Tiwi, Arnhem, Centralian), almost twice the number of regions that were originally formed. This gave more children the opportunity to participate in the various exchanges.

In 1998 the NTSSA changed its name to the Secondary Management Committee.

Around this time SSNT changed from direct department funding to a funding agreement to provide the funding for operations and Relief Teacher reimbursement. A departmental AO2 position was added as extra support for the Executive Officer and program delivery.

Clusters replaced regions and individual high school competitions as School Sport NT mirrored the department re-structure to address participation opportunities at the base of the developmental pyramid to provide better pathways for urban, rural and remote students as competitors, student umpires/referees, coaches/managers, administrators at the interschool level between neighbouring schools. The 6 clusters were:

  • Arnhem
  • City (Darwin)
  • Desert Storm (Alice Springs and the Barkly)
  • Northern Suburbs (Darwin)
  • PARCS ( Palmerston and Rural)
  • Rivers (Katherine)

Volunteer Cluster Coordinators were supported by part-time admin officers as participation numbers.

In Term 4, 2005, the department appointed six Physical Education Coordinators (PEC) with a 50% role in cluster school sport coordination. These roles became operational in 2006, line managed by a Senior Physical Education Coordinator (SPEC). The roles were later renamed as School Sport Coordinators (SSC) with an increased involvement in regional interschool sport and the School Sport NT program.

In 2013 a departmental restructure focusing on regionalisation, saw the amalgamation of City and Northern Suburbs into one region, Darwin, and the creation of Barkly Region. Desert Storm became known as Alice Springs and Rivers as Katherine Region. SSNT organisation was a reflection of these departmental regions:

  • Alice Springs Region
  • Arnhem Region
  • Barkly Region
  • Darwin Region
  • Katherine Region
  • Palmerston and Rural Region (PARR)

In 2020 all NT Government regions were aligned and the school sport regions became:

  • Central Region
  • East Arnhem Region
  • Barkly Region
  • Darwin Region
  • Big Rivers Region and
  • Top End Region.

A review of the governance structure of SSNT in 2019 proposed the establishment of a new governance system. SSNT continues to operate as an Incorporated Association, in much the same way as a school council. As of 2020 the SSNT Board is made up of principal delegates representing the schools of each region, with an elected Chairperson, the Executive Officer SSNT and Business Manager SSNT in ex-officio roles. The Business Manager will fill the role of Treasurer.

2020 also saw the formation of the DoE Sport Education Unit. This brings the regional Sport Education (formerly School Sport) Coordinators, regional Administration Assistants, the Manager SSNT and School Sport Australia Programs, SSNT Business Manager and three other SSNT Programs Officers into the same work unit, under the leadership of the principal, Sport Education.

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