Rugby League’s Indigenous players have made their own heartfelt plea about the future of Indigenous children by joining an emotional NRL video to talk of the hopes and dreams they have for their families as they prepare for this week’s Close the Gap Round
Johnathan Thurston, Sam Thaiday, Andrew Fifita and Nathan Merritt were among the stars posing with their children to highlight the uncertain future that is faced by so many indigenous Australians.
Close the Gap reminds us that babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.
This week NRL players at every ground call on all Australians to continue to work together to achieve Indigenous health equality.
“So many of us have become fathers recently and your world just changes immediately, you are responsible for this life,” Thurston said.
“Holding my daughter Frankie for the first time made me realise the importance of working to close the gap for future generations.”
Filming took place in QLD and NSW with the vision providing fans a first-hand look into the lives of some of the game’s greatest Indigenous players.
For many of the players the birth of their children has provided them with an awakening on the importance of working to close the gap and create the best opportunities and pathways for their children’s future.
“I want to see my son succeed in life,” Andrew Fifita said of baby Latu Jay.
“I want him to be healthy and follow his dreams.
“I love my baby to the world, it is a different type of love and at the end of the day I would do anything for him.”
For others it is the hope of seeing their children's children.
“I want to make sure I am healthy enough to still be around when my kids have kids and to be a grandfather to their kids,” Merritt said.
“A lot of us have problems with our health and we need to increase health awareness amongst our people to make sure we are around for our kids.
“We need to help them do better things in their life and focus on the positives.
Round 23 (16th – 19th August) is the NRL’s annual Close the Gap Round, the fifth since Rugby League became the first sporting code in Australia to sign up to the Close the Gap campaign back in 2009.
“Sport plays a critical role in helping to close the gap, with many examples of lives being turned around through involvement in a local sporting club, with its community focus and health benefits for players.” Close the Gap co-chair Jody Broun said.
"The NRL was the first sporting code to support Close the Gap, and the standing of the League's many Aboriginal players is an inspiration to our young mob all around the country."
The Round is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of closing the gap in health equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians with NRL clubs acknowledging the round with match day activities, specially designed jerseys and events.
“As a mum, as an aboriginal woman and someone that is passionate about social-justice the Close the Gap round is incredibly significant to me,” The Chair of the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council, the Hon Linda Burney MP, said.