It’s Indigenous Round week - a time to celebrate the extraordinary skills sporting excellence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players in our much-loved code.
A time to highlight the NRL’s zero tolerance for racism and discrimination both on and off the field.
A time to celebrate the unique relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Rugby League.
There’s no question; this is a unique relationship.
Almost three percent of Australia’s population are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (2.9%), and yet 12 percent of the current elite-playing group are Indigenous.
For Indigenous people across Australia, the NRL is the life-blood of many communities.
This is a sport that makes a difference. Time and again, playing footy can turn lives and whole communities around.
Indigenous Rugby League stars do so much more than pull on a jersey every weekend and run the footy for 80 minutes.
They put back into their communities time and time again - whether it’s through programs like the NRL’s School to Work or Voice Against Violence programs, State of Mind Campaign or Tackle Bullying.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders ask a lot of our Indigenous players.
In turn, the NRL supports these players in their work as part of the codes’ commitment to helping drive better outcomes for Indigenous communities.
The NRL and players are partnering with RECOGNISE, and are using their weight and standing in the community to get behind this principle - to get recognition into our constitution and racism out. Good for them.
This is an incredibly important issue for our nation and the public needs to be aware and brought along with this conversation.
Through my work with the NRL I know that all players who speak voluntarily on this issue are fully briefed.
They talk through the issues, and competing and different views about treaty and sovereignty are discussed, acknowledged and respected.
Importantly, what we know is that constitutional recognition does not shut down working for a treaty – many people are working for both and we should not be asked to choose between them.
For decades Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been calling for rights, for recognition, for treaty. We are at a time when we are getting closer to realising some of these political aspirations.
Everyone will have their say. The Referendum Council, charged with developing a model, is about to begin a nation-wide consultation with the Australian people, starting with Indigenous communities.
I’m proud that the NRL has taken a stance on equality and inclusiveness for many years, and I have no doubt they will continue to stand up for what they believe in.
Linda Burney chairs the Australian Rugby League Indigenous Council and is the Labor Party's candidate contesting the seat of Barton in the upcoming July 2 elections.