AFL Final – Reconciliation is already the winner

On the eve of the AFL Grand Final, Reconciliation Australia congratulates the Fremantle Dockers and Hawthorn for their leadership in advancing the cause of reconciliation.

With the two teams having up to 13 Indigenous players on their playing lists there are few events which better illustrate the enormous contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make to the social, cultural and sporting life of Australia said Reconciliation Australia CEO Leah Armstrong.

“AFL clubs, including Saturday’s two contenders Hawthorn and Fremantle are at the forefront of efforts to promote reconciliation and reduce racism,” she said. “Earlier this year the Dockers launched their Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), which includes a commitment to work with local Noongar groups as well as at least one visit a year to remote Aboriginal communities.

“Hawthorn has a long standing relationship with Aboriginal communities in the NT’s Katherine region where it assists local schools and community organisations. They are currently developing a RAP, as are the AFL Players Association and they will join AFL Clubs Geelong, Richmond and Essendon with active RAPs.”

Ms Armstrong said clubs in other codes including Rugby Union and Rugby League are also actively pursuing reconciliation and partnerships with Aboriginal communities across the country.

“Reconciliation Australia’s RAP program provides a way for sporting clubs to undertake practical actions to build strong relationships and enhanced respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians,” she said. “The success of this program in the AFL and other Australian sporting codes serves as an example of what Australians can achieve.”

Ms Armstrong said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have long made significant contributions to Australian sport, from the first Australian cricket team to tour England in 1868 made up entirely of Aboriginal players; to Lionel Rose’s great boxing achievements; and Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medalists, Nova Peris and Cathy Freeman.

”However, sport is not only about players, and just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are forging careers in health, law, finance, and mining, so too are our people now working as coaches, administrators, medical professionals and communications specialists in the sports sector,” said Ms Armstrong.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander success in sport is a metaphor for what we can achieve in the wider Australian community given the same sort of support and opportunities provided by clubs like Hawthorn and Fremantle.”

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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