Softball Australia and Travelodge Aussie Spirit have unveiled the team’s first ever Indigenous supporter top to mark NAIDOC Week and celebrate the journey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players to the pinnacle of women’s softball in the country.

Aussie Spirit captain and Kamilaroi woman, Stacey Porter, and her Western Australian team mate Leah Parry drove the project.

“One of my team mates Leah Parry came up with the idea,” Porter told NIT.

“There was an email sent out by Softball Australia, saying we had a new clothing company and asking for ideas,” Porter said.

“[Parry] sent me a message saying we should get some Indigenous shirts. I supported that. I told the officials I knew a girl in Brisbane who is really talented in that area, [Indigenous artist] Kylie Hill, and she said she would love to do shirts.”

Porter, the current record holder for most games played for Australia with more than 430 and counting, said “any time we get to celebrate Indigenous culture is quite powerful”.

“There have been big movements in this space over the past year and some of it has not been super positive. This is as a time the nation gets together to celebrate Indigenous culture in a positive way.”

Stacey Porter. Photo supplied.

While acknowledging that some progress has been made, Porter said there is still a journey ahead.

“I would like to see people educating themselves on Indigenous culture. That is what I have been pushing in the Black Lives Matter movement,” she said.

“I think there is a big part of Australia that doesn’t understand where we have come from and how long our history really is. My call is for people to educate themselves and broaden their knowledge.

“Softball Australia and the state bodies do things at times, but more focus on Indigenous culture is something I would like to see, to raise awareness. There are a lot of Indigenous softballers who love the game, so that would be great.”

Kylie Hill’s own journey with softball began in Mt Isa for the Wanderers Softball Association.

She has since played, umpired and scored in the Redlands Softball Association for Sharks, Logan Softball Association for Chiefs, South Brisbane Softball Association for Southside Stingers and now her home Association in Ipswich where she has played with Raiders, and the Murri Taipans Softball Club.

Hill has also been part of the annual Murri Women’s Softball Tournament for the past seven years as both a player with the Sista Girlz United team and playing a role in delivering the event.

Artist Kylie Hill. Photo supplied.

Her son Jak also contributed to the design of the supporter tops. Jak has represented Queensland at the schoolboys level, and played with the Metropolitan West Schoolboys team, Redlands – Sharks Softball Club, Logan – Chiefs Softball Club, South Brisbane – Southside Stingers and Ipswich, his home Association.

He has also played for Raiders, Outlaws and is currently playing for the Murri Taipans. Jak is also an Australian accredited umpire and has coached.

Hill and her son titled thee design ‘Our Aussie Spirit Journey’ and told NIT the story behind the artwork.

“We came from all over this beautiful country we call home, Australia. We have shared our journeys with families and friends and now we want to share it with you.

“All the hard work, dedication, sweat and tears have made us what we are today. We will be playing hard for our country and won’t let anything bring us down.

“We are the Travelodge Aussie Spirit Softball Team.”

By Giovanni Torre