Indigenous culture celebrated by Victorian footy clubs

Players from Balnarring FNC pose for a photo in their Indigenous jumper. (Photo by Gary Bradshaw / Gary Bradshaw Photography)

Victorian community football clubs have thrown their support behind Sir Doug Nicholls Round and National Reconciliation Week by celebrating the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to Australian Football and the country.

With the AFL celebrating Sir Doug Nicholls Round across Rounds 10 and 11 of the 2022 Toyota AFL Premiership Season, many leagues and clubs throughout Victoria have participated in their own celebrations of Indigenous culture over the past few weeks designing special Indigenous jumpers and hosting Indigenous rounds and matches.

Check out the gallery below to see some highlights of the Indigenous Round celebrations and to read some of the stories about the jumper designs and the artists who designed them!

Portarlington FNC

Wiradjuri / Nari Nari man from Western New South Wales, Christopher Delamont, has a blended style of cultural symbolism and modern use of totems to tell the story, giving him a unique view on the stories they tell.

Christopher’s views his art as a pathway for him to keep his culture, language and storytelling alive. It is an instrument to educate and serves as his way of keeping good mental health. Art is his therapy, and he has utilised it as an art therapy tool for other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.

For Christopher, reconciliation is journey of truth-telling and acknowledgement. Reconciliation means acknowledging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this land and recognising that these peoples were dispossessed, persecuted and oppressed as a result of colonisation in Australia. Reconciliation involves developing an understanding of how these histories continue to shape contemporary Australian society and ensuring that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and cultures are always treated with dignity and respect. 

Portarlington FNC players pose with former Geelong Cat player Matthew Stokes

Rowville Hawks

Rowville's, Steve Hanning, explains the painting he did in collaboration with his cousin Jethro Calma-Holt that featured as the design for the Rowville FNC Indigenous Jumper.

“The two spears are the two teams competing and the two boomerangs represent the captains."

“The dot paintings in the middle are three key elements of a community football club – the coaches, the playing group and the volunteers, supporters, community.”

Russell's Creek FNC

In the Warrnambool District FNL, Russell's Creek FNC wore an Indigenous jumper designed by u15s player Kobi Chatfield and participated in a pregame smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country. Russell's Creek are the first club in the South West to design and play in an Indigenous jumper.

Kobi says the message behind the jumper is "everyone coming together to play and watch a game of football and netball."

The design features the Hopkins River and represents the 'eel story' which Kobi says is an important part of Aboriginal and First Nations Culture.

Artist Kobi Chatfield (centre) poses for a photo with a Russell's Creek player and coach

North Ballarat FNC

North Ballarat player, Josh Chatfield, explains the club's Indigenous jumper designed by his father. The jumper features fishing nets, the Sun, goana, kangaroo and emu tracks and a 'war bench' which is traditionally used on shields for combat. Part of the jumper design also represents the Senior Netball and Football Coaches and members of the club including the 22 players on the football team and the 10 netball players.

Official Golden Square FNC

The Bendigo Football and Netball League held its Indigenous Round on DJAARA Country over the weekend, developed through continued partnerships between members of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DDWCAC), the Bendigo FNL and AFL Central Victoria.

Held during 2022 National Reconciliation Week, the showcase match featured the Official Golden Square Football & Netball Club and Castlemaine Football Netball Club at Furlife Wade St Golden Square Oval.

The match brought together Central Victorian Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members to provide an opportunity for continual learning, whilst paying recognition to the living Aboriginal culture of the traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung.

The match included an official welcome and on-field smoking ceremony, with senior teams playing for the Wirama Shield in both football and netball, and individual awards presented to the players judged best afield for their respective teams. All other senior football and netball teams across the BFNL also wore custom Indigenous uniforms during Round 7 matches.

Official Golden Square FNC pose for a team photo after winning the Wirama Shield

Macedon Cats JFC

All of the MJFC’s ten teams played at their home ground at Tony Clarke Reserve proudly wearing an Indigenous jersey unique to the club. The jersey was designed by Aboriginal artist, Nathan Leitch, a Quandamooka Man from North Stradbroke Island in Queensland with strong ties to Victoria having grown up in Western Victoria on Gunditjmara Country.

The colourful design features the local geography and topography of the Macedon Ranges. The club also had specially designed polo shirts and beanies. 

Young footballers from the Macedon Cats JFC pose for a photo

Tyabb FNC

As part of Reconciliation Round, Tyabb FNC had specially designed jumpers for the Men's & Women's Football teams that they proudly wore on the weekend. Adam Magennis of Kaptify Art designed the jumper for the team.

Adam attended training during the week to talk to all the sides about the history of the area and the symbolism of the jumpers they were wearing. He was also there on gameday to place Ochre on the arms of netballers and footballers.

Players from Tyabb FNC pose for a photo in their Indigenous jumpers

Hastings vs Pearcedale (MPFNL)

Hastings FNC and Pearcedale FNC met in an Indigenous Round matchup in the Mornington Peninsula Football and Netball League located on the traditional lands of the Boon Wurrung / Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation. 

Both teams participated in an official Welcome to Country and on-field smoking ceremony and Hastings played in a specially designed jumper.

Members of Hastings FNC watch on as the club participates in a smoking ceremony

Balnarring JFC

The Balnarring Junior Football Club unveiled their new Indigenous jumpers for the launch of Reconciliation round on the weekend.

The club partnered with the Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association and Wathawurrung artist Brianna Wills to create the design. 

Balnarring JFC players pose for a team photo in their specially designed Indigenous jumper

Heidelberg JFC, St Mary's JFC, Brunswick JFC (YJFL)

The Heidelberg Junior Football Club Youth Girls and Colts both played as part of a double-header under lights against St Mary's JFC and Brunswick JFC , respectively, in the YJFL.

All the teams celebrated by wearing specially designed Indigenous jumpers and the centre circle at Warringal Park had been specially painted to represent the colours of the Aboriginal flag.

Heidelberg JFC and St Mary's JFC come together around the centre circle

Old Eltham Collegians FC

Old Eltham Collegians FC celebrated Sir Doug Nicholls Round and Reconciliation Week be wearing a jumper by Kirrae Gunditj Art.
Indigenous broadcaster, Grant Hansen spoke at the club during the week providing education and sparking conversations between players and supporters.

At the game, Aunty Joy Murphy’s performed a Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony. Nicky Winmar was also in attendance to toss the coin for the clash. 

Nicky Winmar participates in a smoking ceremony before the Old Eltham Collegians game

Whitehorse Pioneers FNC

Whitehorse reached out to well-known Aboriginal Artist Rob Naylor, a proud Yuin man, who was born and raised on Dharawal country to design their Indigenous jumper.

Naylor’s work, which can be seen in the image below, was inspired by conversations with Whitehorse alumni James and Robert Thomson.
Naylor explained that the design mixes both the culture and land on which Whitehorse Football Netball Club reside.

“After hearing from some of the guys that were part of the club and the input they had regarding their background, I came up with this."
“It incorporates their culture with the totem of their mother’s country – the Yorta Yorta people of the Murray River region (also represented by the blue waters in the painting) – and their totem which is the turtle."

“Secondly the Eagle and Crow both represent the land on which the club resides and that’s the Wurundjeri people. The dot circles in the club colours represent the coming together of the community to support and watch the club play football.“

Both Whitehorse’s Men’s and Women’s sides wore the jumper over weekend and participated in a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony performed by the Wurundjeri people.

Whitehorse Pioneers men's and women's players and club members pose for a photo in their Indigenous jumper

Brunswick Football Club

The jumper was designed by Yandruwandha-Yawareawarrka artist Uncle Les Stanley who described it as showing "the strength and resilience of women and girls and their footprints are forever remaining".

The guernsey retains the club’s trademark purple as the dominant colour, but the usual green yoke has been replaced by a trail of green and blue dots forming a V. A spiky echidna dominates the lower third of the guernsey.

The echidna was chosen because it is a strong native animal that covers vast distances in all types of weather and seasons. Two large red dots above the echidna are surrounded by a pattern of multi-coloured smaller dots to represent women sitting around a waterhole. Long lines of red and white dots fan out from the waterholes to four gathering places. The back of the guernsey features a painting of a Balga grass tree set against the red and yellow of the Aboriginal flag in the form of a bush sky. 

For more information about AFL Victoria Indigenous Programs, head to AFL Victoria | Indigenous