Indigenous Round to celebrate and educate
NRL fans will be invited to celebrate and participate in Indigenous culture throughout Indigenous Round this weekend while pausing to consider some significant societal change in Australia.
A number of teams will wear specially-designed Indigenous Round jerseys across Round 22 where traditional Indigenous dances and 'Welcome to Country' will be a part of the pre-game celebrations at each ground.
Also this weekend the zero on the 40-metre line at each ground will be replaced by the 'RECOGNISE' symbol that seeks to institute constitutional recognition for Australia's first peoples, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
NRL education and welfare officer Dean Widders will visit every NRL club in the lead-up to Indigenous Round to speak to entire playing groups about the responsibility we all share as a member of Australian society to recognise Australia's first peoples.
It's an issue that goes far beyond the constraints of a rugby league field but one which Head of Community, Adam Check, says the NRL takes great pride in promoting along with the celebration that Indigenous Australians have made to the game.
"Indigenous Round is both a wonderful platform to highlight the significant contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to our game, as well as an opportunity to influence the Australian society on the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within the Australian constitution through the RECOGNISE campaign," Mr Check said.
"We must, as Australia's largest sporting community, keep the conversation going, keep talking about it, keep calling it out, knowing that our fantastic game of rugby league can have a significant influence and a positive impact on the recognition of our first peoples.
"The RECOGNISE campaign is a significant campaign for Australian society that we can help to promote in a positive way.
"It's not just the responsibility of a Dean Widders or a Greg Inglis or a 'JT' (Johnathan Thurston), it's the responsibility of all of us."
"A highlight of NRL All Stars for me this year was to hear Kieran Foran speak so passionately about the concept and the meaning behind All Stars and the ability to showcase the talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and for us to continue to close the gap on the divide."
The National Rugby League was the first national sporting organisation to institute a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) almost a decade ago and is currently operating on the second-highest RAP issued by Reconciliation Australia.
While All Stars week and Indigenous Round are the public vehicles to promote Indigenous culture and challenges faced by Indigenous people on a daily basis, Check said the greatest source of pride for the NRL is the implementation of programs designed to increase employment opportunities within the game and educational outcomes for young Indigenous people.
"By instituting change within the game, which is where change starts, it gives us the platform to take on some of these more aspirational challenges such as recognising our first peoples in our constitution," Mr Check said.
"More than just talking about it, we're doing more work to try and recruit Indigenous workers into the game. We provide support for Murri and Koori carnivals in regional and remote areas and we've got strategies in place to get more Indigenous welfare officers working in the game.
"Our School-to-Work program that mentors Indigenous youth into future education and employment is seeing a success rate of up to 98 per cent which is outstanding.
"While we have some ways to go, we can be really proud of the hard targets we have set ourselves around the employment, procurement of Indigenous owned and operated companies.
"We've got a huge obligation to society but it starts with what we're doing inside our own house. Our Reconciliation Action Plan is the guiding document for this mission, and one that we are determined to succeed in for the greater recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in this country and the incredible contribution they make, and will continue to make, to the game of rugby league."