Pain behind Bird's Indigenous journey

Inspired by his first Indigenous All Stars appearance in 2010, Greg Bird went looking for information about his Indigenous heritage and found things that members of his family still can't discuss to this day.

He has found pride in connecting with his Indigenous heritage but there has been pain along the way.

Bird will take to the field for the Titans on Sunday in Melbourne wearing Umbro boots specially designed by Gold Coast Indigenous artist Christine Slabb and will later sign them and put them up for auction to raise funds for a former junior rugby league player Jeremias Blackman who was left wheelchair-bound following a car accident in 2010.

 

As Indigenous Round celebrates the contribution of Indigenous athletes to our game it is also raising awareness of the RECOGNISE campaign to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Australian constitution.

It's a key pillar of the NRL's current Reconciliation Action Plan and a campaign that has become even more important to Bird over the past five years.

When the inaugural Indigenous All Stars gathered in 2010 each player was asked to share their story but for Bird and a number of others, it was a story they were largely unfamiliar with.

So Bird went searching and although he insists his family wasn't a part of the 'stolen generation', there were similar issues that remain largely unresolved.

"Our family is a bit of a touchy one, like I guess a lot of Aboriginal families going through that time where young kids were taken from their families," Bird tells NRL.com.

"They weren't stolen generation but there were definitely similar issues.

"No one in my family really wants to talk about it but I found some birth certificates and some marriage certificates going all the way back to my great great grandfather and traced where they were.

"I haven't really had the opportunity to speak to my grandmother about it because she's reluctant to talk about it still, but I've spoken to some of my uncles who have done their own research and found out a bit of information which I think is nice to know."

 

One of only four players to have represented the Indigenous All Stars on four or more occasions, Bird's journey of family discovery not only had a major impact personally but also on those teammates who perhaps, like Bird, were unaware of their Indigenous lineage.

"One of the most powerful things that we ever did was we all sat in a room and had dinner together and we all told our own little story about where we were from and talked about how proud we were to be Indigenous and I think that was a very powerful moment," said Broncos forward Sam Thaiday.

"That was his story and he sat down and told us that story. Since that point he's learned more about his family and his family have also been more open to finding out about his family.

"He sat there and told us his story and it's a pretty touching story. To not know your whole life and then find out that these atrocities happened to your family, he's doing what he can now to find out more."

Added Bird: "When I told my story I didn't really have anything to say so since that time is when I've gone out and found out a little bit.

"The first All Stars game there were a lot of players in a very similar situation to me, players who knew they had Indigenous heritage through grandmothers or grandfathers but they didn't know anything themselves, players who I thought would have been in better touch with their history.

"There were a lot of players after that first All Stars game who went and found out more information and I'm one of them."

Find out more information about how to win Greg Bird's signed boots from Indigenous Round here

This video first featured at titans.com.au