Tennis Australia Scores Major Ace with Deadly Choices

Tennis Australia, through its flagship Australian Open Tournament in Melbourne next year, will team with the country’s preeminent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander preventative health care program, Deadly Choices, to broaden the reach of tennis into communities while also ensuring an appropriate celebration of First Nation’s Day on Wednesday, 18 January 2023.

Key directives of Deadly Choices, a preventative health initiative of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH), include improving the capacity of Indigenous Australians, young and old, to maintain healthy and active lifestyles through the promotion of healthy foods, regular exercise, tobacco cessation and the importance of completing an annual health check. 

The partnership between Tennis Australia and Deadly Choices creates amazing scope for community members to engage with tennis and encourages individuals to complete a 715 Health Check to receive a specially designed AO & Deadly Choices shirt and go in the draw to win an ultimate AO First Nations Day Experience.

First Nations Day at AO2023 will have activities designed by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people including local music, live art, visual and creative acknowledgements, dance and storytelling.

“We are thrilled to be able to connect with the incredible team at Deadly Choices to promote healthy choices leading in, and during the AO,” Tennis Australia Head of Inclusion and Diversity Kerry Tavrou said.

“The AO is proud to be able to acknowledge, recognise and celebrate First Nations people around the country, and we hope through this opportunity more people can learn about our sport, and feel more connected to tennis.

Paired with the longstanding partnership between Deadly Choices and the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) allows the delivery of educational programs and health promotion initiatives across the various communities of the Melbourne area, coupled with health and education networks across wider Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory.

“Tennis Australia’s commitment to community through the Australian Open health initiative will make an indelible mark where it’s needed most,” confirmed VAHS CEO Michael Graham.

“The new Australian Open Deadly Choices incentive shirts will prove popular in our clinics that service the wider Melbourne area, and likewise I’m sure in clinics right across Australia, which in essence means healthier, happier families and communities.

“They’re a great representation of the local artwork designed by Dixon Patten which now aligns itself to community members across Melbourne who are making those deadly, healthy choices.

“We’re looking forward to working with Deadly Choices and Tennis Australia to ensure a culturally significant occasion on First Nations Day, which will be appreciated by the global audience in attendance on Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Country at Rod Laver Arena and around the world.” 

Similarly, Deadly Choices is excited to see how its first venture into the sport of tennis will resonate among communities as a way of appropriately engaging them towards optimal health care.

“We’ve seen how successful our partnerships with AFL and NRL clubs have been, so with our first venture into tennis through Tennis Australia and the Australian Open we’re optimistic that expansion into other sports will also provide the perfect vehicle to enhance continued delivery of positive health messaging into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities,” said Deadly Choices General Manager Dallas Leon.      

“This is a very timely and momentous addition to our partnerships’ portfolio. Through the support of Tennis Australia and our own band of regular Ambassadors we’ll continue to educate youth about the importance of taking a preventative approach to their health and living healthy lifestyles through the sport of tennis.”

“The ongoing implementation of Deadly Choice as a preventive health program supports communities and the national focus to improve health outcomes, so we are extremely excited about the partnership.”


The Artist & Artwork:

Bitja (Dixon Patten) is a proud Gunnai, Gunditjmara, Dhudhuroa and Yorta Yorta man with blood connection to Wiradjuri, Yuin, Wemba Wemba, Gweagal, Wadi Wadi, Monaro and Djab Wurrung. He is an artist, designer, mentor, influencer and a strong community advocate.

Bitja’s artistic practice is informed through a strong cultural value that his family and community have imprinted into his mind, heart, and spirit and the narratives often delve deep into familial history, often in celebration but also in search of healing.

Bitja’s exploration of culture and connection and his willingness to share and learn are informed by the art of Deep Listening, or in his native Yorta Yorta language ‘Gulpa Ngawul’. This practice has guided many of Dixon’s expressions by uncovering the layers, exploring trauma, exploring grief, reclaiming culture, bridging gaps, being accountable, learning to understand and also challenge systems, influencing spaces and learning to celebrate self. He takes his role as a storyteller seriously and feels humbled to continue this strong aspect of Aboriginal culture.

Dixon has been granted to permission to honour Wurundjeri Country in working with Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin, a senior Wurunderi Elder.

The artwork is a representation of people gathering together on Wurundjeri Woiwurrung country to enjoy the tennis. People are coming from all different communities, nations and cultural backgrounds and returning with a unique story of their experience. This piece also signifies us moving forward with a respect of culture and diversity, symbolised by the emu and kangaroo tracks.