Jobs Events Advertise

Dogs, Power rush to support Indigenous culture on January 26

Andrew Mathieson -

Two AFL clubs have followed a list of sporting identities over acknowledging the hurt that celebrating Australia Day causes First Nations people.

The Port Adelaide administration and Western Bulldogs players have unequivocally called for a new date to mark the contentious national holiday.

A number of the top Bulldogs went further than the carefully-worded stance of their club to the extent of volunteering to feature in a video calling for change.

Both teams came out to issue statements the day before January 26 that were posted exclusively on the clubs' websites or across social media channels, independent of any views expressed by the AFL.

This comes after Test cricket captain Pat Cummins and vice-captain Steve Smith were asked of their thoughts over Cricket Australia not officially sanctioning the promotion of Australia Day for the second day of its West Indies clash at the Gabba.

Both men in separate media conferences a day apart was content to endorse a rethink of the public holiday that included Smith's view forming after a few discussions with Gulidjan man and Test teammate, Scott Boland.

While January 26 has been commemorated for the creation of a nation, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people dub the date 'Invasion Day' since the arrival of the First Fleet into Sydney and the raising of the Union Jack.

The football clubs recognise that to past First Nations generations, the date has always represented the starting point for the mass genocide that followed and today it remains a day of mourning to most.

The statements are the boldest of any sporting clubs have presented publicly in recent years on changing the date for Australia Day and providing a litany of reasons behind the ethical stand.

"The Port Adelaide Football Club acknowledges our First Nations people's continuous connection to these lands for (more than) 60,000 years and that the 26th of January represents a day of immense sadness and sorrow for many in our community," the Power's full statement read.

"Our club values the legacy of its past and current Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders players, and contribution of First Nations staff, volunteers, and supporters.

"We are wholeheartedly committed to reconciliation and building connections, and relationships founded on trust, unity, and mutual prosperity.

"This commitment is reflected in our actions through creating pathways for our First Nations people through the club's Aboriginal programs, the development of our Reconciliation Action Plan and the First Nations Advisory Committee.

"We look forward to a time when all Australians can celebrate our nation on a day everyone can feel proud, included, and unified.

"The Port Adelaide Football Club respects that everyone has the right to their own views. The board, staff and players of the Port Adelaide Football Club support changing the date."

A cross-section of Bulldogs teammates that included captain Marcus Bontempelli and Djap Wurrung/Gunditjmara and Noongar man, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan gathered around the club's headquarters to discuss their experiences and how opinions have changed.

In the video that the club recognises was filmed on the traditional lands for the Woi Wurrung and Boon Wurrung language groups of the Kulin nation, Indigenous rookie Arthur Jones, who is related to the famous Krakouer brothers, talks about how attending an Invasion Day rally in Melbourne 12 months earlier gave perspective to teammates of how his people have survived.

"Going to the march with all the boys last year, it was a day of mourning, but also a day of celebration," Jones said.

"You know it is called Survival Day in our terms, the oldest culture alive, and to know that we're still alive, kicking, breathing, and to have the boys celebrating our culture on this day, was great, just to have everyone there.

"It just shows you how much support there is with the club and the players, all of the coaches and staff.

"Just being a First Nations people, it feels like (being) loved."

Norm Smith medallist Jason Johannisen, who was born in South Africa to parents of coloured background, was grateful for the country that took in his family, but he now expects a change of date for Australia Day.

"It's amazing to celebrate the life we live in Australia, who we are," Johannisen said.

"For me, it's just ridiculous how it could be set on a date that has so much pain, and emotional attachment to Indigenous people."

The son of 1989 Brownlow Medallist Tony Liberatore recognised how attitudes have changed over generations, reflecting on his own experience playing with Indigenous teammates for a decade now.

"The longer I've spent time with First Nations people, particularly teammates now, to hear what you have got to say and hear what you have been through now allows me to understand a lot more," Tom Liberatore said.

"It's only a positive thing to change the date."

The club's statement seemed to further reflect the views of the dressing room.

"In recognition of our shared history, we acknowledge that January 26 is a day of pain and sorrow for its First Nations people," the Bulldogs statement said.

"We embrace the opportunity to connect, reflect and share perspectives as we work towards a truly inclusive future.

"As a club, we are committed to our reconciliation journey, today and every day.

"We stand united and in alliance with the oldest culture in the world – 80,000+ years.


Despite the AFL season never crossing over January 26, more AFL clubs have been recognising the consequences of the date, and are expected to follow suit with a number of statements clarifying their changing position further.


Bevan French stars in World Club Challenge
Bevan French has steered Wigan Warriors to their fifth World Club Challenge win with a man-of-the-match performance over Penrith...
Jarred Cross 25 Feb 2024
Ex-AFL star Steven Motlop joins North Warrnambool
Ex-AFL player Steven Motlop will ply his trade in Victoria this season after signing with Hampden Football League club North War...
Jackson Clark 25 Feb 2024
Sanders stars in the Bulldogs' match simulation win
Western Bulldogs young gun Ryley Sanders has staked his claim for a Round 1 debut after a scintillating performance in Friday’s...
Jackson Clark 24 Feb 2024
National Indigenous Cricket Championships start with bumper day 1
The National Indigenous Cricket Championships in Mparntwe/Alice Springs produced nail biters and strong batting displays on its...
Jarred Cross 23 Feb 2024

   Andrew Mathieson   

Indigenous All Stars match ready to expand annual concept: Griffiths
The annual NRL All Stars match will forever be credited to former star Preston Campbell. But the evolution of the Indigenous Al...
Andrew Mathieson 23 Feb 2024
North moving on without Thomas after practice match victory over premiers
North Melbourne is still waiting to hear what penalty Tarryn Thomas will cop, but is no longer counting the midfielder in game-d...
Andrew Mathieson 22 Feb 2024
Sailor out to prove a point for spot on Broncos lineup
It’s almost hard to fathom that Tristan Sailor’s name on ability alone was never read out to replace one of the many withdrawals...
Andrew Mathieson 21 Feb 2024
Thomas set to cop big suspension over inappropriate behaviour, according to reports
The AFL appears set to suspend Tarryn Thomas from playing for 18 weeks, which could end the Lumaranatana and Kamilaroi man’s pla...
Andrew Mathieson 20 Feb 2024