The wider Rugby community has recognised NAIDOC Week as Rugby Australia hosted the inaugural First Nations Round over the weekend.
NAIDOC Week is held in the first week of July each year and is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.
Whilst many competitions have adopted celebrations in the past, the unified effort is a first, led by the First Nations Rugby Committee.
It comprises of representatives from both Rugby Australia and the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team, looking to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Round was held on July 9, with a number of clubs and competitions adopting significant initiatives, capped by the Wallabies wearing the First Nations jersey along with signing the anthem in Yugambeh language for the second Test against England in Brisbane.
This includes Canberra’s John I Dent Cup, hosting their fifth First Nations round.
Each first grade and Women’s Premier teams adopted special socks during their games with indigenous designs incorporating a yarning circle and handprint.
It was designed by local artist Budda Connors, with Yarning circles used to communicate and encourage respect, build relationships and to provide a safe place to be heard and to respond, whilst the handprint symbolises strength and unity.
A number of clubs also adopted specialist indigenous jerseys, with University of Queensland and Easts wearing theirs across Hospital Cup in 2022.
First Grade players from both the men's and women's Easts Club wore jerseys with unique Indigenous artwork, designed by a parent of one of their junior players, for their matches against GPS on last Saturday.
Multiple clubs in WA Premier Grade adopted similar initiatives as the likes of Bayswater and Scarborough wore specialist indigenous jerseys to help celebrate the Round.
Rugby SA has adopted designs throughout their season through their match ball, along with a smoking ceremony before each game in the round.
The design incorporates a clasp of emu feathers, which was used in the past for a similar game by two 50-a-side groups of Aboriginals.
As recognition and celebration continues, this has led several competitions and state organisations to create programs and talent IDs to help increase First Nations participation.
As part of NAIDOC week celebrations, Rugby Victoria hosted the first ‘All Nations Clinic’ in conjunction with Moorabbin Rugby Club to help encourage participation.
This is followed by the Brumbies’ Indigenous Identification and Development Program, spearheaded by winger Andy Muirhead.
Muirhead has been vocal about encouraging the next generation of First Nation players, looking to become the 15th to play for the Wallabies.
The pair of events on July 20 are targeted at both primary school and teenage kids, looking to build skill development and athletic performance whilst maintaining a focus on health and wellbeing.