Local teams shed a whopping 293kg in Aboriginal health challenge

The two Burbaga Burawa teams won a combined $25,000 for finished first and third in the state, presented by NRL players Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell (centre).

Two Mount Druitt teams have lost a combined 293 kilograms and won $25,000 in the NSW Aboriginal Knockout Health Challenge.

The NSW Health challenge features teams of at least 20 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people who compete to lose the most weight over 10 weeks through group exercise and diet plans.

The winning team, Burbaga Burawa from Mount Druitt, boasted a total weight loss of 174.71kg – an average of nearly 6kg per person.

The other Burbaga Burawa team (which means ‘rise up and rise above’ in Darug) finished third with a total weight loss of 118.6kg.

Blake Smith-Tatafu (centre) with NRL players Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell. Blake received an individual award for losing 40kg.

Lizzie May, a member of the winning team, dropped her weight from 101.4kg down to 83.7kg and has continued to go to gym classes five days a week.

“It was a real struggle at first, but by the end of the second week I could see it was really working and that gave me the motivation and confidence to keep going,” Lizzie said.

“I feel stronger and less tired throughout the day. Most importantly I can now chase the grandkids up and down the play equipment.”

Nita Jennings, Robyn Taylor, Ray Kelly, Frank Cumic and Sara Hayek all helped the winning teams along the way.

The participants, who were struggling with health issues including obesity and type 2 diabetes, had access to group training sessions and food plans thanks to Western Sydney Local Health District and Western Sydney Primary Health Network.

WentWest Aboriginal project officer Robyn Taylor managed the winning team and said she was incredibly proud of their commitment.

“The best part for me is seeing the lifestyle changes people have committed to after the challenge ended,” Robyn said.

“For some of them it was their first time stepping foot in the gym, and now they have memberships and have the confidence to go on their own. And they’re passing those lifestyle changes onto their family and the next generation so we can help close the gap.”

Competitors and their family attended the award presentation, including Chyan Young, Sasha Saunders, Tylique Setu and Chantelle Young.

Blake Smith-Tatafu said he would never have been confident to work out in a gym before taking on the challenge.

“Being healthy is not embarrassing and it’s not something shameful, it’s an amazing thing to do for yourself,” Blake said.

“More than just the physical health improvements, the challenge showed how we care for each other passionately. We’re all Aboriginal people in western Sydney who care for each other to succeed and to strengthen our community.

“We had 60 people on the challenge who have shared what they learnt with their family, friends and people at work and it is spreading through the community.”

Robyn thanked the organisations and people who supported their teams, including trainer Frank Cumic, exercise physiologist Ray Kelly, trainer Sarah Hayek-Donovan, and NXT SET Health and Fitness in St Marys.