Friday 03 June 2022, 00:00

Australia building strong platform for indigenous legacy

  • Australian football heightens Indigenous engagement during National Reconciliation Week

  • Legacy plan aims to unlock the potential of women and girls from indigenous communities

  • 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup venues will feature Indigenous city names

Kyah Simon scored the winner when Australia secured it’s only FIFA Women’s World Cup™ knockout stage win. At the other end of the pitch, Lydia Williams pulled off arguably the save of Canada 2015 to somehow deny Formiga with a barely-believable Inspector Gadget-like reach. The Matildas’ breakthrough win over a much-vaunted Brazil at Canada 2015 was a proud, tear-inducing moment for the game’s true believers. That two Indigenous Australians played a pivotal role in that breakthrough achievement speaks to the importance of First Nations people in the Matildas’ story. It is a narrative that stretches all the way back to Karen Menzies who was the first Indigenous Australian woman to pull on the national team jersey in 1983. Now the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ offers a unique opportunity to further unlock the potential of the nation’s Indigenous communities, an ambition that is a key component of Australia’s Legacy ’23. As Football Australia Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson said: “An integral part of our Legacy ’23 plan is increasing diverse participation in our sport and creating a supportive and inclusive environment for our community from the grassroots level, through to all our professional leagues.” Coinciding with National Reconciliation Week, Football Australia on Wednesday announced Football Victoria Director Azmeena Hussain, and Indigenous rights advocate and well-known TV presenter Narelda Jacobs as the latest additions to their Legacy ’23 Ambassador Program. The pair joins inaugural Matildas’ captain Julie Dolan, Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and Socceroo Awer Mabil, who were announced in April.

Changing the game

Legacy ’23 provides a unique opportunity to shift the psyche of Australians and the world when it comes to women in sport,” said Jacobs, who is also part of Football Australia’s National Indigenous Advisory Group. “Through my role as an ambassador for Legacy ’23, I would like to see more participation in football amongst First Nations people, women and gender fluid people in Australia, not just on the field but off the field in roles like administration, leadership and commentary.” “The idea behind Legacy 23 is to use that momentum to gain traction in the community and increase participation in sport. Everyone is going to want to be a Kyah Simon or a Lydia Williams – that will be the dream to be those players.”

Embracing new opportunities

A notable feature for Australia & New Zealand 2023 is the use of Indigenous city names with, for example, the Final to be played in Sydney/Gadigal and the Opening Match in Auckland/Tamaki Makaurau. It is a progressive initiative, one that is in keeping with National Reconciliation Week’s theme ‘Be Brave. Make Change’. “Language is key to any culture,” Jacobs says. “By having dual names we are telling the world that our culture was never lost. We still refer to those names, even if it is new for non-indigenous people, we have never stopped using those names. This is a chance for the rest of the community to catch up and recognise that there has been that continued [indigenous] culture all along.” Post-tournament the aim is to provide enhanced opportunities for Indigenous communities to play football. “We are removing the obstacles that may have stopped First Nations people from participating in football – we are looking at ways to make membership more affordable, and that goes across all sectors of the community to help increase participation. We are looking at facilities that are provided to make it more accessible, to get more leadership in communities, and so we are looking at all different strategies to make football more accessible.” To receive information on how to apply for FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ tickets click here