Rugby league helps break down social divide: Burney
Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council chair Linda Burney has stressed the importance of the sport in Indigenous communities, as well as the role it plays in breaking down barriers.
Speaking to NRL.com at the announcement of the second Indigenous Council, the Federal member for Barton explained just how significant rugby league was for in generating a national dialogue that embraced equality.
"I think rugby league for the Aboriginal community has always been something where we've been able to excel, be able to be respected, be able to be seen as important leaders within rural and regional communities," she said.
"The history and the story of the interface between Aboriginal people and the broader community has not always been a good one, but rugby league has been different.
"It has been the place where that interface has been equal, and Aboriginal people have played such leadership roles.
"You go to a rugby league game where there are lots of Aboriginal players and you will see some of the fastest, most open football played anywhere. The skills and the recognition of both Aboriginal men and women is significant."
Ms Burney added that rugby league's impact wasn't limited to the playing field.
"It's amazing when you go to some Aboriginal communities, and you'll see little kids who in one hand have a football, and in the other hand they'll have a feeding bottle," she said.
"They're two or three years old in a nappy, walking around with a rugby league ball, and that just says something, doesn't it?"
It's those building blocks that have her and the rest of the Council confident that the future of the game will go from strength to strength in the years to come.
"If you look at the current Australian team, 16 per cent are Aboriginal," she said.
"The best player in the world is an Aboriginal man called Johnathan Thurston, the coach of the NSW Origin team is an Aboriginal man in Laurie Daley.
"What is the most anticipated game of the season? It's the All Stars and it kicks the season off. That is about football, but it's also about much more.
"It's about reconciliation and recognition, and it's also a demonstrative exercise in the commitment the game has to the Indigenous community, as well as the broader Australian community in shaping the dialogue we want to have for reconciliation and recognition of Aboriginal people."