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Bent aiming to do all she can to Close the Gap

As a young player Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blue Shaylee Bent looked up to Pasifika icon Petero Civoniceva and Indigenous legend Tyrone Roberts.

Her grandfather’s people are Biripi from the Forster-Tuncurry area, on the NSW mid-north coast, and the other side of her family are Wiradjuri from Wellington in the central-west.

“I always grew up knowing my Aboriginality. I didn’t grow up on country – I was born and raised in western Sydney – but I know about the pain of the past,” Bent told as the NSWRL pays tribute to First Nations peoples for ‘Close the Gap’ day.

So early in her football career Bent was drawn to the aura around Civoniceva and Roberts.

“I watched these ambassadors for Deadly Choices and I noticed them because they were so passionate about their two heritages,” she said.

“Then the NSW Deadly Blues started up and I was asked to be a part of it and I wanted very much to be a part of it.

“I love it because it brings you back to community and makes me a role model,” Bent said.

“I looked up to Petero and Tyrone and I want to be someone that little girls can look up to and learn about their heritage.

“I love meeting other Indigenous people and learning about their country and their culture.

“It’s a great way to communicate.”

The Deadly Blues, of which Bent has been an ambassador for the past two years, has reached 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW over the past four years from the Tweed in the north, to Narooma in the south, and out west to Broken Hill.

Bent has also been able to spread the word about healthy lifestyles and preserving communities by being a part of five Indigenous All Stars teams since 2019.

The Deadly Blues program works in tandem with the Institute of Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) to get people to visit their participating Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) and have a medical check-up in a bid to try to reduce high rates of illness and disease compared with non-Indigenous Australians.

“Obviously this is where Closing the Gap is so necessary,” Bent said. “We know our rates and percentages (for life expectancy) are a lot lower than other Australians.”

The 715 health check for Indigenous people is completed by a nurse and then reviewed by a GP to help identify whether a person is at risk of illnesses or chronic conditions.

“I didn’t know there was a 715 health check available but from being in that program has made me aware of it,” Bent said.

“I went and got my health check and encouraged all my family, other members of my community to do it.

“That’s one of my roles – being an influence in my community.”

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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