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Office of Sport


On Bathurst Island the children collected the seed heads of the spring rolling grass (Spinifex hirsutis) growing on the sandhills near the coast. They took the seed heads to the beach and tossed them into the air where they were blown along by the wind. After a start, the children chased the seed heads and tried to pick them up while running at full speed.

In many Aboriginal settlements in remote parts of Australia the children commonly played games with ‘rollers’. These could be toy trucks made from wheel rims or large tins filled with damp mud. The rollers are pushed or pulled with handles made of wire. Sometimes groups of children with rollers have races.

Game play and basic rules           

Tarnambai events

Players roll a tennis ball away from their partner who sprints after it, picks it up on the run after it crosses a line 20 metres away (30 metres for older players) and returns. Conduct a series of races and/or time the attempts — best of two. Spread competitors out across the field.

In a team relay, players roll the ball themselves, chase after it and return it to the next player.

In a tabloid event, players attempt to score as many returns as they can in a set time limit (2-3 minutes).

As a carnival championship all the players from the different age groups in a house/team have their places/points or times added together.

Thurnda-gu events

Conduct individual races where a player pushes a roller along a straight path or around an obstacle course. The wheels must stay in contact with the ground at all times.

Relay races can be conducted in the same manner as individual races.

Note: Ensure that all the ‘rollers’ are of the same construction. A roller may be an empty food tin through which a wire or string has been threaded from end to end and wound up tightly to make a long handle (steering wheel). The tin is filled with sand or rocks and pulled or pushed to make a track.


In the Torres Strait a continuous running game is played on the beach using two trees up to 50 metres apart. One selected player starts by running toward one tree to try and touch it. If they are touched by another player this player calls out loudly, ‘Eda’, (signalling that they are now the runner) and starts running toward the tree which is the furthest away.

The game continues in this way. On a football field with large numbers of players, two runners may be used. When a player successfully touches a tree, they are declared a winner.


Tarnambai means ‘running’ in the language used in the Batavia area of North Queensland.

Thurnda-gu means ‘to roll something’ in the Yindjibarndi language of central parts of Western Australia.

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