The first of July marks the beginning of Naidoc week, a time that recognises and celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In the collective history of our nation, it’s a significant time for all, as it presents not only a time for learning about First Nations cultures and histories, but also a platform to participate in such celebrations and support the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth through community-led activities and events.
Now, in recognition of Naidoc week, the Wallabies will sing the Australian national anthem in local Indigenous language, while also running out onto the Suncorp Stadium pitch wearing their First Nations jersey.
With the rugby union Test series against England continuing this weekend in Brisbane, the team is set to wear the predominantly gold jersey that pays respect to First Nations people. It also features Kamilaroi and Gamilaraay man Dennis Golding’s design. In wearing it out to the test series against England, it will mark the first time the team has worn the jersey in 2022.
While the wearing of the First Nations jersey is certainly a celebratory moment in Aussie sport, it’s also worth noting that the national anthem – sung before kick-off – will be in Yugambeh language, alongside the Yugambeh Youth Choir in a tribute to Uncle Lloyd McDermott who was the first Wallabies player to identify as a First Nations man. For those not familiar with the legend of the game, McDermott – a proud Mununjali and Wakka Wakka man – also served as Australia’s first Indigenous barrister and famously boycotted the Wallabies’ 1963 tour to South Africa during the apartheid era.
Remarking on the upcoming occasion, Dave Rennie expressed: “As a team, we’re extremely proud to be able to celebrate Naidoc week by wearing our First Nations jersey and singing in Uncle’s language on Saturday night in Brisbane. We put a lot of time into understanding who we play for and who we represent and the privilege to play for Australia isn’t lost on us.”
The Wallabies first sung the anthem in First Nations language back in 2020, when Olivia Fox sang in Eora language at the CommBank Stadium in Parramatta. The team became the first national side to do so as a result. Meanwhile, 2017 marked the moment the Wallabies became the first national team to wear a First Nations jersey at Suncorp Stadium in Golding’s design.
McDermott’s daughter, Phillipa, said the significance of the occasion is one that is felt personally. “It is amazing to see my dad recognised in this way, his impact on rugby was profound and continues today through Lloydies. This means so much to our family and dad would be honoured,” she said.