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With the Australian Rugby League Commission this week celebrating National Reconciliation Week, we thought it timely to highlight some of Rugby League’s life-changing education and health programs that have helped Indigenous communities and our efforts in providing a national stage for practical reconciliation.

We are committed to providing increased opportunities for Indigenous Australians to access quality programs and initiatives aimed at addressing the significant levels of disadvantage prevalent within society today.

From One Community through to NRL and grass-roots clubs, Rugby League is proud to be making a positive difference to people’s lives.

Our commitment is reinforced by the formalisation of a game-wide Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP – 2010-2013), demonstrating Rugby League’s investment in Indigenous Australia, and driven by the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council, established in 2007.

Some of the programs and initiatives we have in place include:

Harvey Norman Rugby League All Stars: Recognised as one of this country’s most powerful examples of practical reconciliation, the match between the NRL All Stars and Indigenous All Stars generates $1.5million each year for community projects across the game, with a focus on assisting Indigenous communities. The NRL’s All Stars game is supported by the Australian Government as part of its commitment to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

Learn Earn Legend! This program encourages Indigenous youth to stay at school (Learn), get a job (Earn) and be a legend for themselves, their family and their community (Legend). More than 11,000 Indigenous youth have benefited from Learn Earn Legend! initiatives, including School to Work programs, the State of Origin Jobs Experience Program, All Stars Youth Summit and numerous NRL club-based programs: -

o    Learn Earn Legend! School to Work Program

-   NRL Clubs, in partnership with key stakeholders, inspire Indigenous high school students in their region to stay in school and establish a firm career path for themselves.

-    10 NRL clubs currently have these programs in place (Knights, Titans, Broncos, Cowboys, Bulldogs,Eels, Wests Tigers, Panthers, Rabbitohs and Raiders).

o    Learn Earn Legend! State of Origin Job Experience Program (SOOJEP)

-     Inspires young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from rural and remote Australia to embrace the educational and employment opportunities that are available, while strongly maintaining their identity and culture.

o    Learn Earn Legend! Youth Summit

-    Provides Indigenous students from around Australia an opportunity to participate in an educational, cultural and motivational experience.

o    Learn Earn Legend! Tingha Project

-    Brings together community stakeholders to improve the education, training and employment pathways of youth and builds community capacity to ensure sustainable outcomes.

o    Young Indigenous Learn Earn Legend! Award

-    Recognises outstanding achievement and application to education, employment, culture and the community.

OneSight-One Community: Promoting the belief that clear vision is a basic right, not a luxury, this program targets Indigenous students in communities with restricted access to basic eye care services. Through the program 622 students have been screened to date and it will assist a further 1200 students by the end of 2012. Students who attend the screening are then rotated through Rugby League skills clinics with One Community Ambassadors who deliver positive messages about eye care and general health.

Tackling Violence Program: This program aims to educate boys and men to reduce the incidence of violence against women and to inspire them to be role models in their communities.

Game Activations

o    Close the Gap Round

-    Promotes the Australian Government’s ‘Close the Gap’ initiative working towards closing the life expectancy and health equality gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

o    Harmony Round

-    Celebrating Australia’s cultural diversity, community participation, inclusiveness and respect.

o    Violence Against Women

-    The program engages Indigenous Australians and promotes the current issues relating to violence within the community targeted at women.

o    Indigenous Culture, Arts and Language Program

-    Delivers Indigenous Cultural, Arts and Language activities to further promote and preserve the culture, and proud history, of Indigenous Australia.

o    Indigenous Women’s All Stars Development Program

-    Through the Federal Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport, and administered by the game, opportunities exist for players of the Indigenous Women’s team to access quality personal and professional development programs to increase their self-esteem, leadership quality and employability.

o    Donate Life

-    Raising awareness of organ and tissue donation within the Indigenous community.

o    Cross-cultural Awareness Training

-    Delivered to Clubs, players, administrators and Australian communities, this program provides a platform for further understanding and appreciation of the cultural sensitivities and intricacies linked with Indigenous communities.

o    Dream Believe Achieve

-    A teaching resource that encourages (Indigenous) students to build healthy lifestyles and positive ways to find and achieve their dreams.

o    Eat Well, Play Well, Stay Well

-    Developed to engage and encourage (Indigenous) children to build healthy lifestyles and make positive choices.

o    Rugby League Reads

-    A series of Rugby League Reads initiatives aimed at primary schools to highlight the importance of reading. The resource uses Rugby League as a vehicle to engage students in reading by providing free Rugby League-orientated educational resources for students and teachers in schools and role modelling male sport stars as readers.  An Indigenous-specific “All Stars-themed” version is available this year (2012).

o    One Deadly Step

-    A community-driven program that raises awareness around important health issues and encourages screening, early detection, follow up and management of chronic disease

o    National Indigenous Rugby League Development Program

-    Aims to increase the development of Indigenous Rugby League throughout Australia, increasing participation at all levels.

o    No School No Play

-    Aims to build strong partnerships between sporting organisations, parents and communities of Indigenous secondary school students.

NRL Clubs

Each NRL Club plays a pivotal role in the delivery of programs and initiatives aimed at Indigenous Australians in their relevant catchment areas - most of which are supported by revenue generated from the All Stars game. However, Clubs run a number of their own activities which complement the game’s overall RAP:

o    Close the Gap Round (CTG)

-    Highlights the need to focus on key areas including Indigenous health, education, employment and life expectancy (Broncos, Raiders, Sharks, Knights, Eels and Titans are heavily involved in the activation of these events).

o    Reconciliation Cup

-    Initially developed (in 2007) to mark the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, when Australians voted to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Indigenous Australians, and played between the Cowboys and the Bulldogs, it is now a prominent fixture during Close the Gap Round and takes on increased significance – linked with CTG Round messaging.

The Australian Rugby League Commission’s commitment to promoting the talents of Indigenous Australians was recognised last month when the NRL was named ‘Up and Coming Member of the Year’ by the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (AIMSC) for showing “excellence in their supplier diversity, community engagement and Indigenous business mentoring”.

The Australian Rugby League Commission is also one of three finalists for the prestigious international Beyond Sport Federation/Governing Body of the Year Award. The winner will be announced at the Beyond Sport Summit 2012 in London from July 23-25.

For more details about Rugby League’s Indigenous programs, log on to

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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