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.

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.”

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

Indigenous rapper Baker Boy travelled 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.

“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.”

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.

“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.”