Renowned Mount Isa Rodeo launches inaugural Indigenous Championships

Renowned Mount Isa Rodeo launches inaugural Indigenous Championships

As skilled stockman Peter Jupiter prepares for a saddle bronc ride behind the chutes of Mount Isa’s Buchanan Park, it’s clear that this is not his first rodeo.

Renowned for being the biggest and richest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere, the Mount Isa Rodeo drew a record 1,000 nominations.

But for Indigenous riders like Mr Jupiter, this year’s event was a first.

It marked the launch of the inaugural Mount Isa Rodeo Indigenous Championships on Thursday.

At least 85 cowboys and cowgirls from some of the most remote Aboriginal communities in the country converged on the iconic red-dirt arena to showcase their talents.

Indigenous riders from across Australia competed in the event.(ABC North West Qld: Larissa Waterson)

For Mr Jupiter, the event meant a lot more than bucking broncos and shiny buckles.

“It’s really important. It means a lot to us,” he said.

“With the first Indigenous rodeo, especially here at Mount Isa competing with the big boys, it means so much to us.

“This is probably going to light Mount Isa up.”

A cowboy rides a bucking bronco at a rodeo
The rodeo is an opportunity for talented Aboriginal stockmen and women.(Supplied: Mount Isa Mines Rodeo)

Aboriginal cowboys and cowgirls of all ages were recognized on the arena while performances by local artists celebrated culture.

A cowgirl wears a blue sash and holds up a buckle prize at a rodeo
Kalkadoon woman Maisy Hetherington won the breakaway roping championship.(Supplied: Mount Isa Mines Rodeo)

Indigenous rapper Baker Boy traveled from Birmingham, England, where he had performed at the closing of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, to put on a show at the Indigenous Championships.


Paving the way for future generations

Patrick Cooke, chief executive of the Mona Aboriginal Corporation, who coordinated the event, said the Indigenous rodeo fostered connection and representation in the community.

“From our perspective, this brings our community together,” he said.

“It’s not just a rodeo, it’s a celebration of our culture and our people.

An Indigenous man wearing brown and orange clothes and a cowboy hat dances in a rodeo arena
Deadly Dexter was the newest edition to the Mount Isa Rodeo’s protection team.(Supplied: Mount Isa Mines Rodeo)

“It’s fantastic. We’ve also got about six new Indigenous businesses that have run over the four days because of this rodeo.

“It showcases Indigenous stock men and women who were once the backbone of this industry.”

Little boy and older man, both Aboriginal and wearing cowboy clothes, hold up rodeo buckle prizes
Eight-year-old Rueben Craigie won the poddy ride while his dad, Jason, won the bareback title.(Supplied: Mount Isa Mines Rodeo)

Mr Cooke said the rodeo provided an avenue for young people to carve out careers in the industry.

“Mona runs on-country programs for disengaged youth and this Indigenous rodeo shows them a different industry and a different way of life that is available to them,” he said.

A group of young people and an older man, all wearing blue shirts and cowboy hats, stand in front of a hay bale
Patrick Cooke hopes the rodeo will create pathways for young people across the region.( ABC North West Qld: Larissa Waterson)

“This sort of event highlights that there are opportunities out there if they’re willing to take it and shows them the amazing things Indigenous people can do.

“These events are all about partnerships and continuing partnerships into a better future.”

A group of Indigenous rodeo riders and dancers, all wearing colorful shirts and traditional garments pose for a group photo
Locals have praised the event as an opportunity for better representation of Indigenous talent from across the region.(ABC North West Qld: Larissa Waterson)