A few hundred years ago, sports were used for reconciliation purposes. Games such as Marngrook aimed to pass down traditional knowledge between generations and pass on code.
Luke Briscoe

22 Mar 2017 - 3:56 PM  UPDATED 22 Mar 2017 - 4:51 PM

Today's revitalisation of traditional Indigenous games is influencing the education system and creating profound respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia.

While the European 'invasion' wiped out much of the knowledge of traditional Indigenous sporting games, there has been a cultural revival and acknowledgment by the government to introduce traditional games into schools.

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Since 2009, the Australia Sport Commission has worked with the NSW community to develop an understanding and respect for traditional Indigenous games. They have also developed tool kits and resources for schools to encourage the inclusion of Indigenous sports in mainstream society.

The Australian Football League (AFL) is Australia’s most widely supported national game, but what many Australian's may not know is that the origins of AFL have deep seeded roots embedded into Indigenous culture. A traditional game called Marngrook is said to be an Aboriginal game that provided the first lawmakers of football with some of the fundamentals of the game that now, millions know and love as Australian Rules (Aussie Rules) Football, a view which is not totally undisputed.

It's funny that only today scientist and doctors are discovering the healing properties of games and how and why these activities have a way of triggering memories - knowledge Indigenous people have known for thousands of years. All throughout Australia Indigenous societies used games, sports and activities as a means to pass on coded information. Traditional games were also played by elder people as well as way of being physical and also mentally fit.

It is widely known that the human brain has evolved to associate memory with place and time. Long before the Greek and the Celts, Aboriginal Australians were recording vast information knowledge dating back to over 100,000 years - a knowledge system that is connected to a vast ecosystem which has sustained Australia since time began.

Long before the Greek and the Celts, Aboriginal Australians were recording vast information knowledge dating back to over 100,000 years - a knowledge system that is connected to an entire ecosystem which has sustained Australia since they first arrives on the earth.

Aboriginal Australia figured out that game play was a very useful way of passing on vast information, a way to encode information and how it becomes stored within one's memory bank. And what better way to do this than sport? For example, just think about how your childhood memories of playing cricket or footy in the sun or swimming at the beach comes back to you easily, and here you can see how game play is so effective in encoding information.

Indigenous astronomy was also some of the ancient knowledge’s encoded through ceremonial sports and arts. Euahlayi people from the Brisbane region memorised star maps at night and learn the songs that talk about their relationship to the land. Each star was associated with a landscape feature, such as a waterhole. They were able to encode information which through rituals and ceremonies which could be performed on long tracks through rough and rouged terrain.

Indigenous Australians have a long history of using sports, games and art as an effective way to keep physically and mentally healthy as well as story information. Sadly in Australia dementia is growing and our Indigenous population are experience higher rates of dementia than non-Indigenous Australians.

Key statistics from the World Health Organisation report into the Alzimers: 

  • The number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated at 35.6 million. This number will double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.
  • Between 2% and 10% of all cases of dementia start before the age of 65. The prevalence doubles with every five-year increment in age after 65.
  • The total estimated worldwide costs of dementia were US$ 604 billion in 2010. In high-income countries, informal care (45%) and formal social care (40%) account for the majority of costs, while the proportionate contribution of direct medical costs (15%) is much lower.
  • Dementia is one of the major causes of disability in later life. It accounts for 11.9% of the years lived with disability due to a noncommunicable disease. It is the leading cause of dependency (i.e. need for care) and disability among older people.

Indigenous people have survived and passed on traditional knowledge in Australia for over 100,000 years and it’s obvious that the lore’s, customs and rituals were their life force. Could it be that if we re-establish the ancient sports and games we may see a decline in Alzheimer’s?

NITV's Marngrook Footy Show is back! Tune in every Thursday from 23 March @ 7.30pm AEDT to catch all the latest AFL news.

Fremante's Kirby Bentley and Western Bulldogs' Nicole Callinan will be guests on the Marngrook Footy Show 23 March @ 7.30pm on NITV Ch. 34

The 2017 NAB AFL Women's Competition Grand Final is on Saturday, 25 March @ 1pm AEST

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