Barkindji Warrior says to kids, ‘If I can do this, so can you’

Shantelle Thompson (in blue) has dedicated her adult life to helping others gain confidence through stories and sport. Photo provided by the NAIDOC Awards.

An athlete from the fast-growing sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has been recognised for her work helping to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Shantelle Thompson, a three-time World Champion in BJJ, has been handed this year’s Sports Person of the Year Award at the NAIDOC Awards Ceremony in Canberra.

Known as the ‘Barkindji Warrior’, Thompson is a fighter and warrior for her people, opening conversations about mental health with people around the country.

“When I first started to share with people that I wanted to try to be a world champion, it challenged a lot of people’s perceptions,” she said.

“I realised that a lot of our people had forgotten the ability to dream.”

She started training in BJJ in 2011 to help treat her severe post-natal depression after the birth of her twins. She is now a brown belt and is currently ranked 7th in the world.

Thompson found a way to empower herself through her sport and has made it her life’s work to help others feel that empowerment too.

“To all the kids from my community… if I can do this, so can you,” she said.

Thompson’s next goal is to compete in wrestling at the Commonwealth Games.

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