The Arafura Games began as the Arafura Sports Festival in 1991 with 1,500 athletes competing in seven sports. From 1998 it was known as the Arafura Games and was held every two years until 2011, except in 2003 when it was cancelled due to concerns relating to an overseas health epidemic.
The Arafura Games was a well-developed international multi-sport event that attracted participants from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond, with the 2011 event attracting 1,600 visiting athletes.
The Arafura Games fostered goodwill between sporting neighbours and shared sporting and cultural knowledge within the Asia-Pacific region. Significantly, the Arafura Games also provided Northern Territory sporting organisations with the opportunity to develop facilities, coaches, officials as well as athletes. In terms of community engagement, the Arafura Games recruited over 1,000 local and interstate volunteers to support the event and also provided opportunity for interaction with local primary and secondary schools.
In 2012, the then Government cancelled the scheduled 2013 games, citing that the event cost too much and failed to meet Asian engagement objectives.
The Northern Territory Government has announced that the 2019 Arafura Games will be a biennial event held over eight days, to be held 27 April to 4 May 2019, and will be led by Mr Ken Vowles MLA, Minister for Arafura Games.
To ensure maximum inclusion in events, the Games will host a range of sporting competition tiers from amateur through to sub-elite.
The 2019 Arafura Games will also showcase the Northern Territory’s unique arts, culture, history, trade and investment opportunities. It is an event through which friendship, goodwill and understanding between competing nations and the Northern Territory is fostered.
Fifteen sports were chosen for the 2019 Games including, Athletics, Table Tennis, Boxing, Football (Soccer), Badminton, Swimming, Archery, Tennis, Muay Thai, Sailing, Volleyball, Weightlifting, Basketball, Hockey and Netball. Further discussions with Dragon Boating and Sepak Takraw will be undertaken regarding their inclusion as exhibition sports.