By Russell Bennett
Saturday at Longwarry was about far more than just netball and football.
It was about recognising the incredible contributions Indigenous people throughout the generations have made to the Crows and the local community.
The initiative was part of NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week celebrations, which are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC isn’t just celebrated by Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life – and it was no different at Longwarry on Saturday.
There was a traditional Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony conducted prior to the Crows’ senior football and A Grade netball clashes with Lang Lang, when the traditional owners of the lands – the Kurnai people – were acknowledged, and respect paid to their elders past, present, and emerging.
Longwarry was the only Ellinbank District Football League or Ellinbank District Netball Association club to hold an Indigenous Round event this year.
The day meant so much to the Crows, particularly their Indigenous players, and club people.
Longwarry Netball Club president and football club treasurer Tracey Stephens spoke from the heart when she explained just what Saturday was all about.
“Today is always a special day as we get to share a very small part of our culture, and something that all the Aboriginal people here today are very honoured by,” she said.
“Being aboriginal, and carrying our culture can sometimes be a tough gig.
“I get that you probably won’t understand this, but today – celebrating NAIDOC Week – the theme is ‘Voice, Treaty, Truth’.
“Our truth has never been told from an Aboriginal point of view, and we always hear it from the colonisation time. Aboriginal history is still not taught in schools, but we finally have a voice at the table in government calling for change.
“Aboriginality is not about colour. It’s about ancestry. Our colour doesn’t reflect our aboriginality. There’s an analogy where if you have a cup of tea, and you add milk, no matter how much milk you add, it’s still tea – and aboriginality is the same.
“I encourage you to learn the true history of NAIDOC so that we can celebrate our history and achievements on a day like today.
“Our club is celebrating Aboriginal players, officials, and club members past and present who have recorded such achievements as league best and fairests, interleague representation, state representation, life membership, and holding executive positions within the football and netball clubs.
“So, as we take the field today we’re using an Indigenous (designed) football, and Bernie Wells has done an awesome job on the (football) jumpers that reflect our six Indigenous football players, and our local Kurnai history.
“The sporting arena is one place where there really seems to be an even ground.
“While we are the Longwarry Football Netball Club, and the Lang Lang Football Netball Club, and while we strive for victory today, the real winners are us all because, as we move together as a nation, reconciliation and working together is the key.”