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Latrell Mitchell leads the Indigenous All Stars war cry.

The support NRL clubs provide for their players on the field is there for all to see, but off the field, they know that same support needs to be given to their local communities.

National Reconciliation Week is being celebrated this week, but the Melbourne Storm’s efforts in this space have not been restricted solely to May 27-June 3.

Earlier this year, in February during All Stars week, they partnered with Collingwood Football Club and Dardi Murwurro – an organisation that delivers healing, behaviour change and family violence programs for Aboriginal families and communities – for their annual Victorian Men’s Gathering at AAMI Park.

It was a safe space for men to discuss important issues including mental health, family violence, alcohol and drugs.

For former Melbourne forward, Peter Robinson, who now looks after the club’s community programs, the event – now in its fifth consecutive year – was about having these conversations, and more importantly, finding solutions to these problems too.

Melbourne winger Josh Addo-Carr, with former Storm forward Peter Robinson, at the 2019 Victorian Men’s Gathering.
Melbourne winger Josh Addo-Carr, with former Storm forward Peter Robinson, at the 2019 Victorian Men’s Gathering.

"I think sport can bring to light a lot of issues and it can also play a part in being part of the solution," Robinson said.

"That's what that men's gathering is about – having the men in the room playing a part in finding some solutions to violence.

"Part of the healing is getting things off your chest and the space we create, men can speak their truth.

"It's just about having a safe space where men can come and not be judged, where they feel respected and they're being held accountable at the same time.”

A smoking ceremony at the 2019 Victorian Men's Gathering.
A smoking ceremony at the 2019 Victorian Men's Gathering.

The event included a smoke ceremony, guest speakers and an elders panel, along with some light-hearted comedy and musicians. Those who the attended were also given tickets to the inaugural Indigenous All Stars versus New Zealand Maori match.

Bringing men together for these types of forums has a significant impact on them but it goes further that and reaches their families and the community as well.

"A lot of these men have a lot of trauma in their life and they have never been able to express it," Robinson said.

"They've been carrying around these issues and traumas their whole lives and its playing out in other areas and when they get triggered their default emotion, generally, is anger.

"And if they've never learnt how to manager anger, it can be so destructive.

"It's supporting that man but challenging his behaviour. By doing that, that's how we support the women and children in the community, by support the man."

It’s not just the Storm working in this area. Other NRL programs, like The Cowboys House, Beyond the Broncos, Titans Deadly Futures and South Sydney’s Nanga Mai Marri program, are working towards reconciliation too.

This year the NRL aligned Indigenous Round with the commencement of National Reconciliation Week.

NRL Women's National Championship - Day three

NRL Senior Manager of Indigenous Strategy, Mark Deweerd, said it’s important that clubs are doing their part in supporting Indigenous Australians.

"National Reconciliation week brings focus to how important it is for our communities to work together to improve opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples," he said.

"The clubs are the face of our game. They're the ones that are in our communities every day connecting with fans, so it’s a great opportunity for them to give back in their local areas and other communities that they work with to promote and support our Aboriginal communities.

"With 12 per cent of our playing group being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander the NRL understands the importance of reconciliation and uses this week to celebrate the Indigenous men in our game, as well as the work that the NRL and our clubs do for our Indigenous communities."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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