In just five short years, Con Stamocostas has gone from near death to NITV documentary maker. He’s even been shortlisted for an Ossie Award – an annual award run by the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia.
Find out how, Stamocostas says, UTS helped him get there:
I started working towards being a soccer journalist in 2009, but kind of gave up around 2012 after losing motivation. Then, in May 2014, I had two near death experiences that involved episodes with my health, and my goals changed entirely.
While I was in hospital, a nurse read one of my stories and quizzed me about why I gave up. I didn’t really have an answer. After going home from hospital a second time I made a commitment to write a story every day.
Studying postgrad journalism was about taking the second chance that life offered. After getting a number of stories published on the Fox Sports website, Greek Australian newspaper Neos Kosmos and Australian FourFourTwo, I also wanted to learn how to make videos. All the journalism lecturers at UTS and everything you read about the changing landscape of the media says that video is where everything is heading.
I had no idea how to use a camera, edit, write scripts or do voice-overs. But two classes into my video journalism subject, which was taught by Helen Vatsikopoulos, I started to believe I could do it. Her passion and enthusiasm for storytelling and journalism via video inspired me.
So, for my final journalism project, I decided to make a documentary on Indigenous football, specifically on John Moriarty and his program John Moriarty Football.
Every Australian should know his story. John is 78 now, but when he was five, he was taken from his mother and driven away in an army truck from his remote Northern Territory community of Borroloola. He grew up in a boys’ home for Aboriginal kids in South Australia and next to the home was a soccer pitch. Fast forward to 1961 and John Moriarty became the first Indigenous footballer chosen to represent Australia.
Today, he has set up an education and football program called John Moriarty Football (JMF) in Borroloola. It was an incredibly humbling experience to talk to John and learn about what he went through and the obstacles he had to overcome during his life. Seeing the smile on his face as he talked about the JMF kids and their experiences in Sydney, Brazil and Borroloola was one of the best feelings I’ve had as a journalist.
My documentary highlights the work JMF is doing to create positive pathways in sport and education. It’s about young kids following their dreams, overcoming shyness, moving away from everything they have known and living with new families who have opened up their homes.
But the program needs support. I received lots of support from the Indigenous community making it. I had an Indigenous didgeridoo player make some music specifically for the documentary. I went to the National Indigenous Football Championships and filmed Jade North (the first Indigenous captain of Australia and currently the only Indigenous player in the A League) and witnessed the passion that is in the Indigenous community for soccer.
Moriarty says football was the anchor that gave him the confidence to get an education and he is using his experience to make a difference in his community. So, that’s why I wanted to make a documentary about him and the work JMF does, especially as Indigenous representation in the A-League is less than one per cent, but sports like AFL and Rugby League is nine and 12 per cent respectively.
I never did an undergraduate degree, but my experience shows that if you want to study journalism or get into journalism you need to play the long game.
In terms of writing advice, I try and follow these two things: the first draft is never going to be perfect so don’t try to make it perfect. Also, write the first draft with a leather jacket and edit the next couple of drafts with your grandmother’s cardigan. I stole those two pieces of advice. Actually, a good writer always emulates, never steals!
My long-term goal as a journalist is to create a documentary on Australian football that chronicles its history from its Indigenous and migrant roots to the modern day. Currently, I’m in early discussions with NITV to expand on my original documentary. I want to explore the stories of JMF and other Indigenous football figures further and tell their stories. I really want to focus on the human stories around football. Stories to do with cultural diversity and the migrant experience are important to me because they give an opportunity to hear the voices of the actual Australian community as opposed to just the mainstream.
I hope that one day, one of the kids in JMF makes it to Europe or plays for the Matildas or Socceroos. I believe they will and I would love to follow their journey as they do.