By Trevor Jackson
BARBER Shield cricket took on a new look on the weekend for the reconciliation round.
The South Australian Cricket Association joined forces with the Aboriginal community and the Mount Gambier and District Cricket Association to celebrate NAIDOC Week, beginning with a barefoot circle and welcome to country at Frew Park.
Members from the six teams playing on the day were present in the morning ceremony, with the welcome to country conducted by Auntie Michelle.
Auntie Michelle said it was nice to see so many people take part in what she said was an important part of the NAIDOC Week activities and the Boandik tribe.
“The Boandik tribe is the tribe that was around this area,” she said.
“But I guess with NAIDOC week and just being part of it is really important.
“To see the cricket association take on this and being really respectful of us doing a welcome to country I think is really great.”
To have the welcome held at Frew Park was another important part of the day.
Auntie Michelle said it was an important part of the region for Aboriginal people.
“Frew Park was one of the areas of our encampments,” she said.
“This is where they all got sent when they couldn’t go to the hotels to drink and couldn’t stay in town.
“It is very special and is nice to see the respect we are getting.”
That respect spilled over when the cricketers became involved to recite words in the original language of the region.
“It was good to see them all get involved when I said always was, always will be Boandik country,” Auntie Michelle said.
“It is important people realise that and as I say, respect is really important.”
Auntie Michelle said she was born in Berrin – Mount Gambier – and currently lives at Port MacDonnell which is known as Ngaranga, so has strong connections to the region.
“I am born and bred here,” she said.
“We have really strong cultural connections to country.
“I do a lot of workshops in schools, I teach out at the Uni doing the Aboriginal pathways and I teach at the prison.
“I am pretty much involved with community and this week with NAIDOC Week it has been amazing.”
For many years now the Aboriginal community across the country has been able to utilise sporting fields to share their culture.
Auntie Michelle said the attitudes of people across the board has changed for better in her experience.
“I found when I first came down here I would do a welcome to country and people would put their heads down and walk away,” she said.
“That is not happening so much now.
“This is the first time here for me and we would like to see more of community come and support it because they all love sport.”
That change has also flowed through to the wider community, not just the sporting arena.
“I retired back here six years ago but I have never been busier,” Auntie Michelle said.
“I have found the schools, the education department are very respectful, I have good connections there.
“I work at Pangula Mannamurna as a cultural mentor and have strong connections there with the Aboriginal corporations and I work closely with Barrandies.
“Places like the CFS ask me to their meetings to do a welcome there.
“Places where you would not normally be asked.
“I find people are starting to be more responsible.”