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AFL Dreamtime at the ’G 2017: The story behind the jersey

By  AAMI

In 2005, Essendon and Richmond ran onto the field for the first Dreamtime at the ’G match. This initiative was launched in collaboration with the AFL, Melbourne Cricket Club and The Long Walk charity.

The inaugural match was dedicated to celebrating the role Aussie Rules Football has played in building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Two years later, the AFL launched an official Indigenous Round, played during National Reconciliation Week, where teams across the country come together to recognise and celebrate Indigenous players and culture.

In 2016 the round became known as the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, named for the brilliant Fitzroy player and all-round athlete. The first Indigenous person to be knighted, Sir Doug also served as Governor of South Australia and was devoted to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Each year, every club chooses an Indigenous artist to design their footy jumpers and behind each one is a story. Here, we explain.

Essendon FC players Jobe Watson (left), Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti (centre) and Michael Hurley (right) wearing the club’s new Dreamtime guernsey. Photo Supplied by Essendon Football Club.

Essendon Bombers

Essendon Football Club’s fourth Dreamtime jersey has been designed by Chern’ee Sutton – a contemporary Indigenous artist whose heritage lies with the Kalkadoon people from the Mount Isa area in Queensland, Australia.

Sutton’s design depicts boomerangs symbolising the battle that will take place on the field at the Dreamtime at the ‘G match, with a kangaroo signifying the speed, strength and agility that will help the Bombers achieve victory.

The circles and travelling lines represent the many communities that come together and travel to the game to support the Bombers as well as the Indigenous culture and history of the fans and players.

“It’s a really good design and I can’t wait to wear it on Saturday,” Bombers speedster Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, who hails from Melville Island in the Tiwi Islands, told the Club’s website. “Obviously growing up watching the game and watching the boys play … it was a special moment for me to represent my people and where I’m from. It would be great to see everyone come to the game and celebrate Dreamtime at the ‘G.”

Essendon launched their guernsey at their Tullamarine base, at the same time unveiling a new Indigenous art installation and firepit – designed by renowned Aboriginal artist Mandy Nicholson – that now welcomes visitors to the club’s headquarters.

Artist Josh Muir with Richmond FC players Shane Edwards (left) and Daniel Rioli (right) who are wearing the Dreamtime guernsey. Photo supplied by Richmond Football Club.

Richmond Tigers

Designed by contemporary Aboriginal artist Josh Muir, a 25-year-old Yorta Yorta man, Richmond’s seventh Dreamtime jersey is a bold and vibrant fusion of traditional Aboriginal patterns inspired by Richmond pair Daniel Rioli and Nathan Drummond, who are both of Indigenous descent, and tells a tale of peace, love and unity.

“Traditionally Aboriginal people capture what’s in their environment and tell stories of what’s around them,” Muir said. “Rioli being from the Tiwi Islands, and Drummond being from Yorta Yorta, I decided to fuse both traditional patterns into one.

“[The jersey depicts] Bunjil the creator and the old people, using the traditional colours of Richmond designed around the sash. Bunjil is seen as a creator traditionally, and the old men are our elders, which is a really important part of our culture, paying respect to our elders. They fuse together to acknowledge the creator – past and present and the emerging of Aboriginal culture.”

Richmond forward Shane Edwards will honour the 50th anniversary of the historic1967 Australian Referendum by wearing the No. 67 jersey.

“I am proud to wear the No. 67 to commemorate such a significant year in our history,” Edwards said. “The changes to the Constitution provided an important step forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and this is an opportunity to celebrate it.”

Richmond’s 2017 Dreamtime jersey is available in store and online. All proceeds from the sale of Dreamtime-related items go to the Korin Gamadji Institute and the Richmond Football Club’s Indigenous programs.

Get involved

Before every Dreamtime at the ’G match, former AFL player and Indigenous rights activist Michael Long also commemorates The Long Walk, his 2004 trek from the suburbs of Melbourne to parliament house to get Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues back on the national agenda. Long leads thousands of fans and supporters on a commemorative march from Melbourne’s Federation Square to the MCG, allowing Australians to express their commitment to reconciliation and a united Australia.

AAMI is a proud sponsor of the Channel 7 telecast of the AFL. For more info about the Dreamtime at the ’G match or the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, visit afl.com.au