NRL Mailbox: Close the Gap campaign
For the third year, the NRL has dedicated Round 22 (August 5-8) to Close the Gap - Australia’s largest ever campaign to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. The aim of the campaign is to help tackle the life expectancy gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
In 2009, the NRL became the first national sporting code to join the Close the Gap campaign, and last year, Rugby League reinforced its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the launch of the game’s second Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which, to date, remains the only plan registered with Reconciliation Australia by any sport in Australia.
This year’s Close the Gap Round will again continue to highlight the need to focus on key issues including Indigenous health, education, employment and life expectancy.
In a season in which a record six Indigenous players represented Australia in the mid-season Test victory over New Zealand, NRL Clubs this week will stage a number of events to promote the Close The Gap campaign, including:
• The Cowboys will wear a special Indigenous jersey in the annual Reconciliation Cup match against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Friday night, while Matt Bowen will host a group of students from Gilgandra and donate his playing jersey for a giveaway on the Barefoot Rugby League Show;
• Bulldogs centre Jamal Idris has taken part in a campaign on behalf of the Australian Bureau of Statistics encouraging Indigenous Australians to take part in next Tuesday’s Census 2011;
• The Sea Eagles will wear a jersey designed by local artist Jess Birk that depicts the Northern Beaches totem – the whale. The club will also support the GenerationOne movement to bring all Australians together to end the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in one generation. Game-day promotions will include a Welcome to Country, Indigenous dancers, didgeridoo player and a smoking ceremony. There will also be a Sea Of Hands Display on the back of the Hill which Indigenous player Ryan Mitchell will help to create;
• The Newcastle Knights will wear a jersey designed by NAIDOC Aboriginal Artist of the Year Les Elvin. The club is also hosting a Close The Gap lunch featuring representatives from the eight major Local Area Land Councils, players and representatives from the NRL and DEEWR. On game-day there will be Aboriginal dance performances and Health Service providers in attendance conducting health checks;
• Melbourne Storm will launch its own Reconciliation Action Plan with the players to wear black socks with the colours of the Indigenous flag across the top and Indigenous children forming a guard of honour;
• The David Peachey Foundation will raise awareness in the Sharks Community Support Stand with free tickets to be given to Aboriginal community organisations and health services;
• The Raiders will hold an Indigenous Health Clinic next week where 100 kids from the region will do a healthy eating and activity skills morning including receiving a T-shirt, hat, drink bottle and bag;
• The Dragons hosted 50 Indigenous families at their Round 21 match against the Rabbitohs and continue to have players attend the Myimbarr Learning Centre in Wollongong, which is primarily for local Indigenous students;
• Wests Tigers will host the final of the Koori Club prior to their blockbuster clash with the Dragons at the SFS;
• Titans hero Preston Campbell will have a pair of signed, hand-painted boots auctioned for charity. The unworn adidas boots, painted by David Williams, CEO of the Indigenous creative agency Gilimbaa, and colleague Riki Salam will be auctioned along with a Dragons jersey signed by the 2010 Premiers, with all funds raised going to the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation. Campbell and fellow Titans Indigenous All Star Ryan James will also be hosting Titans for Tomorrow workshops for school students;
• Various clubs, including the Broncos and Rabbitohs, will have Reconciliation Australia running game-day stalls while clubs will run the Close The Gap TVC as well as ground announcements and wear Close The Gap tape on their sleeves.
With the support of the Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations’ Learn. Earn. Legend! campaign, the Close the Gap Round will highlight the social issues that lead to a tragic gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the rest of the Australian population.
The responsibility to improve the situation for Indigenous Australians rests with all of us and we encourage our fans to show their support for the Close the Gap campaign by signing the Close the Gap pledge at www.oxfam.org.au/closethegap.