So I've decided I'm going to start writing the odd blog here and there. It was an easy choice for my first blog. My favourite week on the AFL calendar the 2016 Toyota AFL Sir Doug Nicholl's Indigenous Round.
I was so excited when the actual week started, I must have done something right along the way to have deserved such a blessed week. Hope you enjoy my amazing week as much as I did.
Tuesday the AFL flew me to Sydney to MC their Media launch of the Sir Doug Nicholl's Indigenous Round at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern. The room was filled with cameras from every form of media and all the important people were there. It was an exciting opportunity to announce to the football community that the AFL had officially named Indigenous round after Sir Doug Nicholl's. You know you are in for a good week when you get to spend it with Aunty Pam the daughter of Sir Doug Nicholls. What an honour it was for their family and Aunty Pam spoke so beautifully about her father. Sir Doug's story is now available for generations to come so they can learn from his wisdom, passion for his people and his belief in working together as one nation. It was a true honour to be there too.
Wednesday night I was lucky enough to MC the opening of Gavin Wanganeen's art exhibition "Shooting Star" at the Koorie Heritage Trust in Federation Square. I've known Gavin since we were teenagers in Adelaide so it was such a pleasure to MC his opening. The room was full of wonderful people who love Gavin and are truly proud of his achievements. His artwork was spectacular and the night was a huge success.
Thursday night was Marngrook time. We had an amazing show filled with stories, laughter, tears and pride. If you missed this show you missed a good one. Uncle Syd Jackson generously sharing his stories of his life on the Roelands Mission in Western Australia as a child of the stolen generation. Aunty Pam told us stories about her Dad, Sir Doug and made us all laugh with her infectious personality. The AFL CEO, Gillon McLachlan spoke about future plans for the AFL and the future roles of Indigenous people in the AFL. We always love having Gillon on as he is very supportive of Marngrook. Then there was Richmond FC's Shane Edwards, he is not only a lovely man but a leader for future generations.
I feel so blessed every week to be a panel member of the Marngrook footy show and the amazing team I get to work with. We film live on a Thursday night at 7.30pm you can watch us on NITV for those of you who have never watched Marngrook. I always thank Grant Hansen for the wonderful opportunity but this is another blog for another time. I have to pinch myself every week!
Then the big day came "Dreamtime at the G" the day I was so excited about. I had been asked by the AFL to be the MC for the on ground entertainment on the MCG. I had to control myself as internally I was still squealing like a school girl about being asked.
I was also the MC for the Essendon FC at their Chairman's dinner the same night. There were 500 very important people in attendance including the Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull. They were my warmup crowd for the 56,948 people at the MCG and lets not mention the million odd people watching at home!
I love working with the Essendon FC as they have always been so supportive and a pleasure to work with. I got to interview Aunty Pam again and by this stage we were finishing each other's sentences. Gavin Wanganeen spoke about the amazing Dreamtime Jumper he designed for Essendon to wear during the Dreamtime Game. A wonderful achievement for him and his beautiful family. My husband Steven and I also had the pleasure of sitting next to Philip Wallbridge and his beautiful wife Marg. I learnt something new that night Phillip was the mind behind the "Dreamtime at the G" concept who took his idea to Kevin Sheedy who then took it to the AFL. Such beautiful and humble people with a passion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They made a magnificent night even more special.
Then the moment of the week I was waiting for had arrived. Walking onto the MCG to MC the on ground entertainment. What a thrill! I had my nerves in check as I had prepared myself all week with positive thoughts. I have to say my voice echoing around the MCG made my brain want to stop talking so my voice could catch up. But some how I managed to keep talking (all those years of "talks too much" on my report cards paid off) Seriously though, what an honour to be asked by the AFL and to be broadcast on Channel 7 as well as every radio station calling the game. To be standing in the centre of the MCG watching my culture showcased so beautifully to Australia was a magical moment that I will hold dear in my heart forever. I was beyond excited and beyond proud. A moment in time that I wished my father was still here with us to see, as I know he would have been so proud. I was grateful my friend's Kylie and Grace who took my son Taj to the game so he could see his Mum on the G and to know to always dream big.
On Sunday we woke up to Taj my nine year old son's Junior football match. Last year I took the idea of an Indigenous round campaign to get as many junior clubs in custom designed Indigenous round socks and jumpers to a friend Michelle Clyne at the AFL. She told me to go to my junior club and try it there first and see how it goes. As it was so close to last years Indigenous round I thought I'll leave it till 2016, but I got a call from a beautiful woman, Anne-Marie Hallewood who wanted Indigenous round represented at our Junior club. Well I went along and she loved the idea and pushed it with the committee. Eight weeks later the Tackers and Seniors of St Marys JFC ran out in Indigenous Round socks designed by my Son, Taj. This year they did it again and offered the socks to the whole club. Two hundred socks sold out in one sent email. You know how amazing that is if you have ever tried to organise something by email. Unfortunately many missed out but fear not bigger and better next year...yes I have a plan!
It was wonderful to see so many children running around acknowledging the contribution that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have brought to this game we all love. To see Taj's beautiful face lit up on our clubs new scoreboard and everyone patting him on the back for his sock design. It was wonderful to see his pride. Paul Kelly's song "From little things big things grow" always sings through my mind in moments like this.
Anne-Marie Hallewood was an Irish woman who couldn't understand how Indigenous people were treated and not celebrated as she thought they should...but thats another blog. I want to celebrate her another day. The whole time Anne-Marie pushed for these socks (as a few times it looked like it wasn't going to happen) she was very ill from skin cancer. Sadly she passed away only a few days after the reality of her Indigenous round dream came true. She left a legacy and St Mary's Indigenous Round will grow in her honour. This year the club named a medal in her honour (Anne-Marie Hallewood medal) for best on ground. Both her boys played hard and won the medal in their Mum's honour.
A man I can proudly call my friend, Melbourne FC's Neville Jetta came to St Mary's JFC on the Sunday night to talk to the boys and girls about Indigenous round and what it means to him. He is an outstanding Aboriginal man who is leading the way for many to follow. He brought his lovely family along and stayed for hours playing with the little ones. He spoke so well and made me so proud that he would take time out of his busy life for these children and really commit to spending time with them as a real person. He certainly does his family, the Melbourne FC and his people proud.
This week is a collection of moments I was so proud to be a part of and will forever be grateful for the gift that was the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round. Thank you for the amazing love and support of all of my family and friends. I was so humbled by everyone's calls, texts and messages of love on social media. Thank you also to Tony Peek who had faith in me who knew I could do it and put my name up to everyone. Thank you to the amazing AFL team members who welcomed me and helped me every step of the way. I had a wonderful week and as you can see a huge week helping to showcase the beauty in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. I will always remember it with a smile and hope you do too.
So thank you all for everything.