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A moment to dream about

  • 07 June 2022
Welcome to 'Stray Thoughts', where the Eureka Street editorial team muses on ethical and social challenges we've noted throughout the week.  On the night of the Federal Election, I found myself tuning in to the AFL Dreamtime Game between Richmond and Essendon at the MCG. The annual event is part of a whole round of AFL games dedicated to reconciliation with, and respect for, First Nations peoples.

This year’s match happened as Australians were awaiting the results of a poll that would determine the path forward for reconciliation in this country. Should the Labor Party win (as they eventually did), there was a promise of a referendum about enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Australian constitution. The outcome (as a Richmond supporter myself) was doubly happy for me, and I’m sure for most First Nations people.

Fr Frank Brennan SJ has written in our first Eureka Street Plus essay about the significant challenges that will face the Albanese Government in achieving this policy goal. While the Uluru Statement of the Heart is an inspiring document, there’s a long road to be travelled in order to gain majority support for a constitutional change that – as yet – many Australians will not fully understand.

My mind goes back to one of the most significant moments of the Dreamtime celebration at the MCG. Before the game, Richmond players of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent were encircled and then honoured by their teammates. The sight of non-indigenous Richmond players on their knees while their teammates stood proudly before them was powerful and moving. It felt like a significant moment in the club’s history.

To get to that moment, authentically, was not easy. Firstly, the club had to create an environment where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players would feel welcome, and just as importantly, could flourish. From three Indigenous players in 2016, there are now eight Indigenous players on the Richmond list. Those players had a significant input into how the club approached the Dreamtime game, including the design of the jumper. The moment before the game was, truly, theirs.


'What are the things that will need to happen, what is the journey that we’ll need to embark on, in order to reach an authentic moment of reconciliation in this country?'  

More broadly, getting to that place also meant embarking on a journey as a club. In 2011, the club developed a Reconciliation Action Plan, and became the only sporting club to have