FOOTBALL Federation Australia tonight launched a 10-year national plan with the aim of increasing Indigenous participation and to see five per cent making up national teams by the end of that period.
FFA chairman Frank Lowy said at the Telstra Dome launch: "We have not had enough players of Indigenous background in football.
In addition to Prime Minister Rudd, Mr Lowy was joined by Indigenous players from the Hyundai A-League, the Westfield W-League and the National Youth League as well as FFA's newly appointed Indigenous ambassadors, Warren Mundine AO and John Moriarty AM.
Mr Lowy said: "There has been some remarkable Indigenous football players such as Harry Williams and Bridgette Star who have represented their country and their community with distinction but we would like to see more.
"We believe we have a responsibility to encourage more young people of Indigenous background to play football as a way to improve their life through better health, better education and improved skills.
"Indigenous players from other sports show that success in sport has a very positive effect on the local community and we want football to have the same impact.
"Of course, we also hope that we will find more talented young players who can go on to play at the highest level such as the Qantas Socceroos and Matildas, as well as the Hyundai A-League and our other competitions."
Mr Lowy said the 10 year aim was to have at least five per cent of players in all national teams and major competitions of Indigenous background.
"We are working to have the FIFA World Cup in Australia in 2018, and in the same year I would like to see Indigenous Australians playing regularly with the Qantas Socceroos," he said.
Currently, the only regular member of the Socceroos who is Aboriginal is Jade North.
The captain of Adelaide United, Travis Dodd, is also Aboriginal and has notched up more finals appearances in the Hyundai A-League than any other player after tonight's Grand Final.
FFA CEO, Ben Buckley, said the heart of the Indigenous Football Development Program is an annual Indigenous Football Festival to be held in July in Townsville, home of the new Hyundai A-League team, North Queensland Fury.
"The Indigenous Football Festival is an important component of our plan from a long term structural and development perspective," Buckley said.
"The most effective development method is for people to play the game, and any coach will tell you that development is more enduring if there is a sense of purpose.
"The Indigenous Football Festival provides that purpose, and gives young people from communities something to aspire to participate in each year."
In 2009, the Indigenous Football Festival will comprise 16 teams drawn from communities from all over Australia.
The 16 communities will be identified by FFA and Member Federations, in conjunction with Mundine and Moriarty, and supported by a number of initial coach mentors led by Travis Dodd.
The coach mentors will provide the initial coaching clinics for the 16 communities participating in the Indigenous Football Festival, as well as ongoing mentoring for teachers or individuals managing the teams.
Buckley said that change will also be effected by ensuring that:
young Indigenous people continue to play the sport after each annual festival;
FFA's ongoing talent identification programs incorporate Indigenous communities;
accredited coach and referee education programs are made available in communities.
He said that FFA will work closely with Member Federations in each State and Territory and appoint Indigenous Football Development Officers in key locations.
Buckley said that by 2010, FFA aims to offer two young people a football scholarship to a senior secondary school or into higher education.
"We identified the need for a special Indigenous football program in our National Football Development Plan 15 months ago and we have been working on constructing the right program for us.
"We're very excited to launch the program and the Indigenous Football Festival.
"All of us at FFA have a strong commitment to contributing to better outcomes for young Indigenous people and we're confident that, with the help of Warren, John, Travis and others, football can help make a difference in this important area for Australia."