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Tennis lights path for education and career goals in outback WA

Tom Zaunmayr -

She may not line up at a baseline with tennis ball in hand too often, but Alidea Stack knows well the impact a tennis program bringing opportunity to outback WA had on her life.

Ms Stack, 19, works at a West Perth accounting and auditing firm, a job she found through engagement with Murlpirrmarra Connection which started in high school back in Wiluna.

For many children the sport side of these program led by Casey Dellacqua's former coach Darren Patten is attractive, but Ms Stack said it was the educational support which really helped her shine.

"For me it was the school and work side because without the education I probably wouldn't be where I am now," she said.

"They really helped a lot with whatever I needed and whatever I struggled with - even delayed flights and getting stranded in Perth.

Murlpirrmarra takes tennis out into remote areas of WA.

"It gave me a foot in the door - an opportunity to go out and do something."

Murlpirrmarra helps transition children to metropolitan and regional schools and provides what Mr Patten describes as a safety net on the path to graduation and into the workforce.

It uses tennis - a little-known sport in remote communities - as the coalface for education support, rehabilitation and help with volatile substance abuse.

"To be quite frank these kids in these remote areas have never seen a tennis racquet and have never seen (Ash Barty) on TV," Mr Patten said.

"But we go there and say look, the greatest Indigenous athlete that has ever come out of Australia is Evonne Goolagong, and now Ash Barty, and they see them in themselves.

"It increases their confidence and shows a pathway for them."

The program was this month awarded a $1.5m Federal Government grant to expand beyond its spiritual home of Wiluna to communities right across Western Australia.

Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt said sport was a great driver to engage disadvantaged children.

Federal Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt with Murlpirrmarra chief executive Darren Patten.

"For those desert kids it opens up new avenues, new opportunities and a sense of what the world is like outside of their regions," he said.

Mr Patten said the Federal support would enable Mulpirrmarra to duplicate its program into the Kimberley, Pilbara, Gascoyne and central desert communities.

He said about 140 children had come through the program to date, with about one in five graduating.

"We have to embrace the successes because obviously there are young kids and young adults who fall through the cracks but we are still here for them too," Mr Patten said.

"We are not here to change the world, we just want to take it one kid at a time and give them the best opportunity they can have."

Federal Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said the $1.5m boost would support about 2800 Indigenous children in 72 locations.

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