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Tasmanian NBL side says 'sorry' - again - following Indigenous round win

Andrew Mathieson -

Tasmania JackJumpers won the battle on Saturday night, but were left losing the war.

The basketball club almost put several controversial days behind them with a 87-85 victory over Brisbane Bullets that was as tense during the battle of no time-outs in the scoreless final two minutes as was settling disputing Aboriginal parties.

Some home fans ahead of the side's return to Launceston for the first time this season have demanded answers over the decision to suddenly abandon their adopted jersey for the NBL Indigenous round.

The newest of the 10 NBL teams got caught up in debate over lore and the ownership of culture after the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre contested the design behind the jersey's artwork.

Local Huon Valley Indigenous artist Reuben Oates was forced to defend his use of dots after he was accused of misrepresenting Palawa-pakana techniques and their story in the JackJumper's third iteration of their Indigenous playing jersey.

Club chief executive Christine Finnigan issued a media release for the second time in two days, after admitting that a lack of due diligence was behind the Tasmanians for failing to wear their Indigenous pride in the commemorative theme game.

"The past week has been one of the most difficult in the club's short history – and I acknowledge that many people have been impacted," Finnigan wrote.

"I wanted to write to you to address and further explain the issues around the club's Indigenous Jersey and the ongoing commentary.

"The JackJumpers are committed to doing everything we can to rectify the mistakes that have been made and working towards a more educated, respectful, and our culturally-aware future."

In early 2023, the club invited expressions of interest from Aboriginal artists to design a new Indigenous jersey.

Oates was given the final nod, according to the JackJumpers, on "artistic merit", ahead of 17 others.

Complaints to the club through the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre revealed the process behind approving Oates, which included not meeting any form of Indigenous endorsement.

"When issues around the final design were raised, and we were questioned on our approval process, I could not truly say we consulted a wide range of representatives from the communities we were representing, but rather followed an internal process with the artist," Finnegan said.

"That is the heart of the issue – we are young and we are learning.

"However, the fact that we failed to consult widely does not align with the values and behaviours we hold ourselves accountable to and, for that, we apologise."

The club has ensured the public that Oates, who told the JackJumpers his design was based on his own ancestral claim, has been the innocent victim despite dumping his jersey after talks with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre while also standing by his work.

"Rueben is a fantastic Aboriginal artist and we want to thank him for his work with the club over the past eight months," Finnegan said.

"We will continue to engage with Reuben in the future."

The occasion celebrated the Palawa-pakana (people) as the traditional custodians of Lutrawita, with an Acknowledgment to Country and a performance from Indigenous local singer Denni Proctor at half-time.

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