The Marn Grook – more than just a game
This weekend marks the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, the annual round dedicated to celebrating Australia’s first peoples.
The 2017 celebrations will acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum, where over 90.7% of Australians voted ‘yes’ to include Aboriginal people in the census, and allow the Commonwealth Government the ability to make laws for Aboriginal people, as opposed to state.
This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the famous ‘Mabo Decision’ – the historic legal case which abolished the notion of ‘terra nullius’, the idea that Australia belonged to no-one.
Sydney will once again play a starring role in the round as the Sydney Swans host ‘Marn Grook at the SCG’ against Hawthorn on Friday night.
Unbeknownst to many AFL fans, ‘Marn Grook’ is the traditional Aboriginal game of which it is thought Australian Rules football originated. Since 2002, the Sydney Swans have held the annual ‘Marn Grook’ marquee match to celebrate the contributions of Indigenous Australians to Aussie Rules.
AFL NSW/ACT Indigenous Programs Manager, Charlee-Sue Frail says that AFL – and sport in general – can play a significant role in educating the public on Indigenous histories and cultures.
“Sport can speak to Australians who might not otherwise engage in anything to do with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture or history,” explains Frail.
“It breaks down a barrier and provides access to information, and allows people to actively engage with it.”
Frail also speaks of the AFL players who have made political statements through their football, for example Adam Goodes and Nicky Winmar, and their ability to use their standing within the AFL community to have a positive impact on changing perceptions.
“I think because of their profile as sports stars, they have been able to share their stories with all Australians, and people listen because they are such respected sports people.
“Indigenous Round has allowed us to share stories and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and culture with the broader Australian public, and people who may otherwise not have opportunities to learn.
“It enables us to engage the disengaged.”
There will be a number of different activities taking place both inside and outside the SCG tomorrow night.
Outside, attendees will be able to spend time exploring the various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stalls and information services, to further enhance their education on Indigenous culture and history.
There will also be an outdoor cinema beaming videos and images from the newly launched ‘Right Wrongs‘ website, which shares stories about the historic 1967 Referendum. The project has been created through the collaborative work of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the ABC and National and State Libraries Australasia.
Prior to the match, a Welcome to Country will be performed by Aunty Marcia Ella Duncan from the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council – the land on which the SCG stands. Performer, Dan Sultan will also play an acoustic set before the Marn Grook game begins.
Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin will take part in a gift giving tradition where he will exchange a hunting boomerang provided by the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council with a player from his former club, Hawthorn.
A Guard of Honour will be formed for the Swans players with members from Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin’s Indigenous program, the ‘Go Foundation’ taking part.
Excitingly, the Sydney Swans banner will be written in traditional Dharrawal language.
“It gives me the biggest smile having the banner in traditional Dharrawal language,” says Frail.
“The significance of that is that the La Perouse community and the Eastern Coast around Botany Bay were the first impacted by colonialism.
“So to have the banner in their language should remind all Australians of the strength and resilience of Aboriginal culture, and install a sense of pride for First Australians.”
During half-time, approximately 90% of the Auskickers playing on the SCG will be Indigenous children from all across New South Wales and the ACT.
The Goodes O’Loughlin Medal will again be presented to the player deemed Best of Ground. Last year’s Goodes O’Loughlin Medallist, Tom Mitchell will be lining up against his old side in Hawthorn colours, adding an extra layer of anticipation to the game.
AFL NSW/ACT encourages all community clubs to get behind Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round in 2017 and in the years to come.