• Redfern All Blacks Skipper Dean Widders. (Luke Briscoe, Getty Images)Source: Luke Briscoe, Getty Images
For Dean Widders, the NRL's Indigenous Round is about helping and healing.
Adam Santarossa

12 May 2016 - 6:04 PM  UPDATED 12 May 2016 - 6:04 PM

To understand the importance of the NRL’s Indigenous Round you don’t have to look much further than NRL Education and Welfare Officer Dean Widders.

Widders told NRL.com that Rugby League plays a crucial role in ‘Closing the Gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.

"It's a thing that can bring our communities together for the better, it's a thing that can give our young kids aspirations and positive role models, and for a lot of people it's a chance to heal from past wounds and past traumas.

"For me it's a healing opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The game heals us and helps us get over things and helps us look at the positive things in the future.

"It's a way of sending a message to the rest of the country. It's a way of showcasing how we can embrace Indigenous culture, how we can – as a whole nation – come together and heal as one."

The hard work of many is showing significant benefits already, with the School to Work initiative such an example of what partnering with Rugby League can achieve.

"The School to Work program has helped thousands of Indigenous students from all over the country go from school into employment or further education," he explained. 

"The NRL's success percentage in that is around 92 per cent. Those kids that are going through those programs are finishing school and all up 98 per cent of them going on to try to find further education or work which is well above the national average.

"It's a great achievement for Indigenous kids because the percentage sits somewhere around half of Indigenous kids going on to finish year 12, but in this great program rugby league uses the game as a vehicle to drive those messages to motivate them to finish school."


Widders wishes these opportunities were available for his generation, given how crucial they are to the future of todays.

"When I went to school there were no positive things about Indigenous people taught at our school or spoken about in the media. 

"But things like the All Stars have allowed Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come into schools to highlight what we're doing, so in that respect rugby league is sending some great messages, said Widders. "

Helping these messages hit home are the Indigenous stars of the NRL, with Widders saying the likes of Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston show what’s possible.  

"It's inspiring for young kids to look up to them and see these guys achieving their goals and living their dreams," Widders stated. 

"They showcase the benefits of achieving things through discipline, dedication, working hard and all those sorts of things. 

"It also shows the rest of the country that there are Indigenous men achieving great things and showing the positives of our culture”. 


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