Content warning: This article contains reference to suicide. Please refer to the services at the bottom of this article for support.

 

The NRL is aiming to tackle youth suicide by auctioning off specially painted boots that will be worn by some of the players over the Indigenous Round.

Led by players including Cody Walker and Connor Watson, Boots for Brighter Futures sees players from the Newcastle Knights, Wests Tigers, Canberra Raiders, Sydney Roosters, Melbourne Storm, and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs raise awareness and support the prevention of Indigenous youth suicide and its related causes in Australia.

In 2021, the initiative will be featuring artwork from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people from local high schools, community groups and a range of youth justice centres across New South Wales, including:

  • Kirinari Hostel
  • Kincumber High School
  • Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation
  • Orana Youth Justice Centre
  • Reiby Youth Justice Centre
  • Dubbo PCYC
  • Frank Baxter Youth Justice Centre.

The inspiration for this initiative came about through Cultural Choice Association’s Director and Knights playmaker Connor Watson.

Connor Watson with his painted boots. Photo supplied.

“In 2017, I lost my cousin at the age of 17 to youth suicide. As a family faced with the rising tragedy of youth suicide (in particular Indigenous youth suicide) it was at this point that the focus and passion to make a difference in the lives of young Aboriginal people gained impetus and [Cultural Choice Association] was established,” Watson said.

“The Boots for Brighter Future initiative began three years ago with Dad painting my boots as a way for us to celebrate our culture, when I approached the Knights about doing the whole team they were really supportive and got behind us and all of the boys were keen to be a part of it too.”

The boots worn by 74 of the players will all be auctioned off, and each of the artists will receive a share of the proceeds to support them in initiatives around education, employment and wellbeing.

The funds will also go toward raising awareness and supporting the prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicide and its related causes across Australia.

In a separate initiative, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will also wear specially designed and painted boots for the Indigenous Round.

The entire squad will be wearing the boots with each design representing their personality, culture or community.

Boots painted as part of the Rabbitohs’ initiative. Photo supplied.

The artists include Allan McKenzie, Andrew Collard, Floyd Laurie, Ethan Kapeen and Shane Laurie Jr, along with kids who contributed to the designs including Lennox Monaghan, Tyresse Daley, Orlando Hickling, Brian Quinlan-Randall, Antwone Quinlan-Randall, Harrison Armer, Justin Tappa and Justin Snow.

The boots will be auctioned following the Rabbitohs’ game on Saturday via the Mudyala Aboriginal Corporation Facebook page.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:

 

By Teisha Cloos