Ngarara Willim Partnership

Before and during its inaugural season, the Academy incorporated many of the values and initiatives of RMIT University. One of the most significant was the commitment to participate in the journey towards the University’s second Reconciliation plan, Dhumbah Goorowa (meaning a “commitment to share” in the language groups of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kullin nation.

Academy staff and players regularly focussed on their commitment to valuing a shared future with Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander peoples, knowledges and cultures led brilliantly by the Redbacks’ Indigenous captain April Goldring.

Prior to the Redbacks’ first match against Caulfield Grammarians at Bundoora Oval, April spoke from the heart to the Reserves about culture, community, family, Country and the way in which the four overlapped in Indigenous life and the Academy. A smoking ceremony was conducted by Indigenous elder Aunty Di, a traditional practice to promote the wellbeing of
Indigenous people as well as guests on country. In a moment that demonstrated the acceptance of all cultures defining the Academy and its members, everyone at the ground
participated in the Welcome to Country ceremony by placing a eucalyptus leaf on the wooden tarnuk.

In conjunction with the AFL’s annual Dreamtime Round, RMIT University commissioned a student-designed Indigenous tops that the Redbacks wore during their warm-up before their Round 7 double-header against North Brunswick (the Redbacks would also don the warm-up tops prior to their Round 12 matches against Mazenod, which fell on NAIDOC Week). As part of the promotion of the initiative, April Goldring and Sally Tanner appeared in a media announcement.

Given just guidelines for her spoken piece in the video, the Redbacks’ captain was visibly nervous before the cameras rolled. The significance of the initiative was plainly weighing on her shoulders as she looked down for composure and to Sally for support. As she murmured, “I just want to do it justice,” for once she looked and sounded like any other 18-year old.

She steeled herself and looked down the barrel, nodding at Callum O’Connor to begin filming.

“It will be a real privilege when we pull this on, both for the senior and reserves,” she began, visibly struggling with a rising emotion but with a voice that had made its mind up.

“It will be powerful to be presented with the top. It will be powerful to put it on and it will be powerful to run out with it on country.”

The Redbacks played in jumpers with the Ngarara Willim logos on the back in 2019. Ngarara Willim provides RMIT’s Indigenous students and staff a range of study, living and cultural services and acts as the directive hub for the University’s policy of Indigenous recognition and engagement (the name translates to ‘gathering place’ in the language of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations, the traditional custodians of the land on which RMIT’s City and Bundoora campuses reside).


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