Knights utility Connor Watson hopes this weekend’s Indigenous Round will help to highlight the significant social issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Watson, who is an Indigenous player, is proud of how far the NRL and Australia have come with Indigenous affairs, but says there’s a way to go.
He and his family suffered tragedy two years ago when he lost his cousin to suicide – something that shattered his family and the entire community.
Along with his parents Mark and Jodie, and brother Fletcher, the family created a not-for-profit organisation – the Cultural Choice Association (CCAI) – which was set up to raise awareness and support the prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicide and its related causes in Australia.
“Losing my cousin was a terrible thing, I wouldn't wish it upon anyone,” Watson said.
“It leaves a lot of unanswered questions and people have to live with that for the rest of their lives. That’s been the catalyst for me with all of this stuff, trying to change it.
“We want to help as much as we could, so we started the organisation.”
Watson hopes the NRL’s Indigenous Round can help raise awareness for suicide prevention and health battles in Indigenous communities.
“Many people have lost someone to suicide, especially these days in Indigenous youth between the ages of 16 and 24 – it’s four times the rate of non-Indigenous people,” he said.
“Mental health is a massive issue – there’s a huge gap with suicide and we need to be doing everything we can to make a difference.”
To raise funds for the Cultural Choice Association, all Newcastle players will be wearing boots painted with Indigenous art this Friday against the Roosters. The boots will then be auctioned off after the match.
People from the Kirinari Aboriginal Hostel, the Glen Centre Central Coast Drug Alcohol and Baxter Detention Centre have painted the boots with Indigenous art, with each artwork having its own meaning.
To bid on the painted match-worn boots, visit the Knights website after the match, or to make a tax-deductible donations to the Cultural Choice Association, head to ccai.org.au.
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