First Nations athletes set for Port Macquarie Ironman Australia after ’empowering’ experience training with mob

First Nations athletes set for Port Macquarie Ironman Australia after ’empowering’ experience training with mob
  • PublishedMay 8, 2024

First Nations woman Koorinya Moreton says training for this weekend’s Ironman Australia triathlon has helped her push boundaries and achieve more than she thought possible.

Ms Moreton, from Yuin and Bundjalung country, will be among nine First Nations athletes to take on the gruelling Ironman event at Port Macquarie on the New South Wales Mid North Coast this Sunday.

She and six of the other Indigenous athletes have been training as part of an IronMob project, which began 18 months ago.

It aims to encourage more First Nations people to participate in triathlons, connect and prioritise their health and wellbeing.

Ms Moreton, who comes from Batemans Bay and now lives on the Gold Coast, said the experience had been “truly empowering” and she was ready to take on the 3.8-kilometre swim, 180km ride and 42.2km run.

Two Indigenous athletes jogging while training for Ironman Australia.
Bobby Maher (right) training for Ironman Australia.(Supplied: TRIMOB)

“We go away to different triathlon events [with IronMob] … and do some training together and participate, so it really reduces some of the anxiety that comes along with it, as you are there together,” she said.

“When I first signed up to this project it was really about challenging myself and trying something new, and over time it has really changed, and built a lot of my self-esteem and confidence and how I approach everyday things.

“I have connected with people I will stay in touch with beyond triathlons, I have formed great connections with other mob.”

An Indigenous man wearing athletic gear jogs while competing in a triathlon.
Noongar man Nat Heath is the founder of IronMob Australia.(Supplied: Nat Heath)

The six other First Nations athletes set to compete with Ms Moreton as part of TriMob include Robert Briggs, Leisa Leon, Raymond Landers, Bobby Maher, Oliver Whiteley and TriMob leader, Nat Heath.

Bobby Maher said she hoped they would inspire others.

“I want to support other mob to participate, have fun in the sport, connect with others and see what their potential may be,” she said.

Encouraging First Nations triathletes

Noongar man Nat Heath, a multiple Ironman competitor, established TriMob in 2020 as a way to encourage more First Nations people to participate in triathlons.

Mr Heath, who now lives in Sydney, said IronMob was an extension of that program.

An Indigenous woman cycles on a bike during a triathlon.
Koorinya Moreton competing in a recent triathlon.(Supplied: Anthony Smith)

“One of the best ways of providing an opportunity to empower people was to do the hardest one-day event in the world – an Ironman triathlon,” he said.

“In the history of Ironman, we know of only 13 First Nations people to do an Ironman. I wanted to create an opportunity and a program to change that.”

Mr Heath said he was already seeing huge changes.

“Just recently, we had over 50 First Nations people participate in a triathlon-based event – three years ago, you’d be lucky to see two or three First Nations people,” he said.

“The ultimate goal was obviously to empower them, but it’s also inspiring other First Nations people to get in the sport and improve their health and wellbeing as well.”

Huge progress

Aerial shot of a group of athletes swimming competitively in a river in Port Macquarie. 
Last year’s Ironman competition in Port Macquarie.(Supplied: Korupt Vision)

Mr Heath said triathlon was a very individualised sport, but TriMob created a sense of camaraderie, which helped motivate people.

“From a physical standpoint, it’s night and day from where these guys started,” he said.

“Some of our group struggled to run three to five kilometres, and now they’re at an ability where they’re going to take on in one day a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride, and 42 km run. 

“The change in them physically has led to a change in their personal belief of themselves.”

Ms Moreton said she had her sights set on running across the finish line.

“For me being able to finish the event is the end goal and also being able to soak up the environment and the race, as you train for such a long period of time,” she said.


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