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Jillaroos forward Tallisha Harden ahead of the 2020 women's All Stars game.

From Katrina Fanning to Teresa Anderson, the Jillaroos have been enriched in Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander talent since the national side was formed in 1995.

Before that, Rebecca Goolagong was one of 17 players acknowledged in the 1993 foundation team.

Although she's too young to remember that trio play, Indigenous All Stars captain and Jillaroos forward Tallisha Harden is part of today's generation that continues the cultural legacy that many others have carried before her.

Recalled to the Jillaroos set-up last year after various injuries since her debut in 2015, Harden has been a prominent figure in helping develop the Jillaroos into natural leaders around cultural awareness.

Jillaroos coach Brad Donald, a non-Indigenous man, has been instrumental in working with the nation's best players and coaching staff to build an open and inclusive environment.

"Brad was receptive to the idea around bringing in the acknowledgment of country before conduct a camp," Harden told

"Obviously things have changed over the course but I think it's a really essential way to begin any type of event or gathering.

"We're spending anywhere between three to seven days on another tribe's land or country so it's always good to acknowledge the traditional owners and acknowledge we're visitors to the land.

"It's just a respectful way to build a connection between us all and it's great that non-Indigenous people can conduct an acknowledgment of country."

Indigenous Unity Dance

Harden pointed out the efforts of Dragons and Jillaroos star Jess Sergis to lead an acknowledgment of country at the World Cup Nines tournament in October last year.

"I could tell she was so nervous and took it so seriously which was so beautiful," Harden said.

"It was just so nice to see her put her hand up and say 'I'll do it, I really want to honour the traditional custodians'.

"That was amazing for us to see as a group. There's no way I could've even done it about three or four years ago.

"I had a chat with Dean Widders and he's been great around that and wants to see more non-Indigenous people research about the land."

Such is the openness amongst the Jillaroos squad, which includes players of Indigenous and Torres Strait island, Maori, Tongan and Samoan backgrounds, a recent conversation around Australia's national anthem left the coaching staff "blown away" with the maturity of the group.

"I think that's something that Brad, Jamie Feeney, and the crew have tried to do – create a safe environment where we can all thrive as players and people," Harden said.

"The conversation was around what are some of the girls' beliefs and values, why people sing the anthem and why don't they sing the anthem. It was nice to have that shared communication and still be really accepting regardless of their decision.

"It was such an open conversation and flowed so easily. There was no judgement and it was really respectful and gave everyone a better understanding of each person's reasons and beliefs."

Match Highlights: Indigenous All Stars v Maori Ferns

Harden is determined to become a leader amongst the next crop of Indigenous talent that includes the likes of young guns Shakiah Tungai, Caitlan Johnston, Shaylee Bent and Amber Pilley.

The 27-year-old credited recently retired forward Rebecca Young as a big influence throughout her career.

"Having the torch sort of passed over is something I'll really value," Harden said.

"It's just nice to see a new generation of girls who can begin to help facilitate conversations in Jillaroos camps.

"It's just becoming ingrained in our Jillaroos camp and creates a culture of inclusivity."

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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