Victoria's first indigenous state representative, Jamara Maza

In celebration of 2023 NAIDOC Week, we recounted the journey of the first indigenous athlete to represent Victoria, Jamara Maza.

In 1998, Maza first represented Victoria at the 1998 U19 National Championships, before making two more appearances at the open age level in 2002 and 2003.

Growing up in Northcote, football wasn’t on Maza’s mind at first, trying her hand at Golf, Tennis, and even Cricket. It wasn’t until a teacher noticed her skill with the round ball at age 13.

“I remember one of the teachers noticed me on the oval at school and asked whether I would be interested in playing soccer,” Maza recalled.

“He got me involved at Heidelberg United and they would arrange to take me to and from the club and they have supported me ever since.”

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Heidelberg captain Jamara Maza and coach John Lioupas.

Maza made an immediate impact at Heidelberg, scoring on debut with former coach John Lioupas, who said he was glad to play a role in her development as not only a player but also as a person.

“She took to football like a duck to water and as they say the rest is history, her achievements speak for themselves,” Lioupas said.

“We figured out a roster to pick her up and drop her home from training, it was a team effort.

“Heidelberg has always been a family-orientated club and it has never mattered where you were from you were one of the same, we didn’t see her as anything different instead of someone who wanted to play for our club.

“We embraced her, and it was a very nurturing environment for her and all of our players.

“She was not only the first indigenous player to represent Victoria, but she was the first indigenous player to captain a premiership team and our only women’s premiership captain, so we will always have a special part in the Heidelberg family.”

Over her playing years, she also played for the Victorian and Australian school girls sides, while also getting a scholarship with the Queensland Academy of Sport (QAS).

After winning a national title with the QAS, she moved back to Melbourne where she finished her playing career with Heidelberg, including captaining the club’s only senior women’s Championship in 2007.

In her later years of playing, Maza took up coaching and in her first season won the FFA and FFV Coach of the Year award for her work within her community.

“I have had such fond memories growing up and I think as a shy aboriginal kid going to a Greek club and learning very similar values to mine growing up,” Maza said.

“I found it a very safe place to grow up, learned how to be really confident in myself, and was able to use what was given to me to try and encourage the community to get involved.

“It was a very happy upbringing and I owe a lot of my early development to my soccer and playing with Heidelberg.”

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The 2007 Heidelberg United Championship winning team, captained by Jamara Maza.

Since moving on from football, Maza has moved to Portland and continues to give back to her community, currently working in the health sector.

“I work in health now in my community so a lot of that was really entwined into my humble upbringing and the support I was given, I wanted to pay it back,” she said.

With the Women's World Cup only days away, Maza said it was great to have Indigenous representation in the Matildas squad through Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams.

“I am very proud that we have indigenous representation for the young girls coming through, “she said.

“It’s a great platform for us to highlight their success and hopefully we can get some more indigenous kids involved. “