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Titans forward Jarrod Wallace and fan Aiden Barr

Stephen Kearney said it best.

The New Zealand coach at the time, when asked whether an Indigenous war cry would work for the Kangaroos the same way the Haka united New Zealand, Kearney said that rather than starting from the top down, the coming together of cultures had to begin at the base.

He spoke of the Maori teachings that are part of the school curriculum for all New Zealand children and the way knowledge and understanding at a young age can create a more connected community.

Rather than waiting for NRL stars to inspire him, one Gold Coast junior rugby league player is using his own exposure to Indigenous issues to make a difference from the ground up.

Twelve-year-old Aiden Barr addressed the Titans playing squad following training on Tuesday and told them of his fundraising efforts through 'Aiden’s Close the Gap Indigenous Rugby League Round Fundraiser'.

The money that Aiden raises will go towards the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, an organisation that works to improve the 34 per cent of Indigenous Year 5 students in remote areas, who are at national minimum reading standards.

Sparked by being taught in Year 4 by an Indigenous teacher, Kiana Charlton, the John Paul College student approached the rugby league club that he plays for, the Ormeau Shearers, about hosting an Indigenous Round of their own this weekend.

Titans prop Jarrod Wallace.
Titans prop Jarrod Wallace. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

The club fully supported his idea and Aiden consulted with Yugambeh elder Brian Williams - Williams’ daughter Michaela designing the artwork for the jerseys donated by Struddys Sports that will be worn by Aiden’s under-13 division one  team and Ormeau’s senior A Grade side this Sunday.

"I believe all kids should have the same opportunities that I have," Aiden said during his presentation to Titans players.

"I also want to show people that you don't have to be famous to do something big and worthwhile; that everyone can do something small to help make a change and a difference in our communities."

Aiden’s auction has been bolstered by a signed Titans Indigenous Round jersey and an impromptu donation by prop Jarrod Wallace, who gave Aiden a pair of signed boots after training to aid his fundraising efforts.

Aiden’s initiative is the type of individual action by an impressive young man that can have a ripple effect. It was also one appreciated by Titans half and Indigenous All Stars representative Ash Taylor.

"For young Aiden to come in at 12 years of age and be able to stand in front of a group like that and talk about his passion for wanting to make a difference is really touching," Taylor told NRL.com.

"It's all about making people aware of what's happening and the current issues in the Indigenous community.

"It's great that he's taken the time to think about issues that affect Indigenous people, and we need more young people getting that education and understanding.”

Titans halfback Ash Taylor
Titans halfback Ash Taylor ©Jason O'Brien/NRL Photos

The mandate to 'Close the Gap' covers a wide range of health and lifestyle issues that affect Indigenous people, but it can also represent the gap in understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians - one that will be closed by more people taking an active interest such as Aiden.

"It's all about passing down knowledge," said Taylor, an Indigenous All Stars representative in 2017, who missed this year’s clash with the NZ Maori due to injury.

"It's important for us older Indigenous boys to pass down our knowledge to the younger generation so that we can stay strong as a culture, but also to share our culture with other Australians to make sure that it never dies."

 

To lend your support to Aiden’s efforts you can visit his Facebook page (Aidens Close The Gap Indigenous Rugby League Round Fundraiser) or GoFundMe page (Aidens Close The Gap Footy Fundraiser).