The Story Behind the Artwork – Zoe Betar
Last year, AFL NSW/ACT proudly launched our first ever Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) at the Innovate level. The RAP provides a framework to support the work our team across New South Wales and the ACT are doing to engage with and empower our Indigenous Communities.
To celebrate the launch of our first RAP, we commissioned an artwork from local artist Zoe Betar to represent football across New South Wales and the ACT and its connection to Communities.
Jinghiwahla! Ngay bu gala Zoe.
Ngay Bundjalung dubai.
Hello! My name’s Zoe.
I’m a Bundjalung woman.
My Country is on the east coast of far northern New South Wales. My Place is where the mountain meets the rivers, and the rivers meet the sea. I was born in Ocean Shores, in Awabakal of Bundjalung Country and was raised in Tweed Heads, which is Minjungbul of Bundjalung Country.
I came down to Sydney 10 years ago to finish high school and then go to university and work. My two greatest passions in life are learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and of course, sport.
I first started playing Marngrook/AFL for the Stingrays in 2014 and 2015 and have played for the mighty Western Wolves since 2017.
About the artwork
To represent the unique places that are part of your program, you have the red dirt out to the white and yellow sands of the coast and the blues of the ocean.
In the ocean and along the coast, you have the winds and the currents that carry the Songlines that go all along the east coast of Australia. Those Songlines and currents that connect us through the stories and histories that we share, like Whale Dreaming. As a Bundjalung woman from northern New South Wales, we have Whale Dreaming, the same that are present for Yuin Country and for Gadigal. This is just one example of ways that we are connected.
Mother is also very important. From the red dirt, the sandy plains, and the different coloured leaves and plants that give us medicine, our ‘calendars’ and our food. The Land gives us our languages, our place, and our Songlines. We are the Land, and the Land is us. To represent the many plants, earth and life that we are given, I painted different coloured leaves. Each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language group has their own plants that are unique to Place, and to our stories – but also to each other.
Bordering the different coloured leaves are the mountain ranges and escarpments. Not having street signs or walls, these would typically be our natural markers of where one person’s Place meets another, or where ceremony may occur.
There is a five-pointed star in the middle of the painting, representing the five regions of AFL NSW/ACT. Within the spaces of the star is a learning place that represents the uniqueness of each location your programs are run. Stars are important on a number of levels. But it’s not just the stars themselves that we use and see, it is the spaces between them. That’s why I had the programs represented in those spaces.
Communities look to organisations and to sport to help to provide equal and equitable opportunities and pathways for young ones to connect with culture, but also with themselves, walking in two worlds. Looking from an organisational lens, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities play an integral role in our lives, histories and cultures. In order to have any program succeed in this space, it is important for community to be included, and for organisations to work alongside them. A massive strength of AFL NSW/ACT is the strong involvement each program’s community has, and the ability of the organisation to listen to them. So along each arm of the star sits community. Around each of the program learning stars that sit in the spaces, they are also surrounded by community. We learn, share and grow together.
For the star in the middle, each arm of the star holds an Ancestor. That Ancestor represents our Old People. Our Elders. Our Wisdom Keepers and Warriors of the past. There are women and men present in that star. In the very centre, the place that connects them all to each other – a learning circle and meeting place. This learning circle is that of Marngrook, the game that went beyond winning the flag or the cup. It was about skills, learning how to work together to provide for family, learning stories and law. I used the blue, red and white to link to AFL NSW/ACT’s colours. The lines going out from the Ancestor spirits’ heads are the pathways to learnings and teachings from their minds, to the future generations, represented in a smaller meeting space that mimics the larger one at the centre.
Through this artwork, you have the Lands, the waterways and the sky represented. But also the people and, what I hope, is a bit of history of Marngrook.