A significant milestone for the game was achieved earlier this year with the unveiling of Queensland Rugby League’s Reconciliation Action Plan.
In announcing the launch, QRL Indigenous Advisory Committee co-chair Eddie Monaei said he was thrilled by the way the Queensland Rugby League was acknowledging the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the game.
A formal recognition of the organisation’s commitment to promoting reconciliation inclusiveness on and off the field, as well as promoting a deeper understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, the QRL RAP is a first key step in a continuing journey.
Earlier this month, the QRL celebrated NAIDOC Week, with Monaei invited to address the entire QRL staff to provide an update on the progress which had been made in relation to the organisation’s RAP.
“There are still a lot of gaps within our government system to acknowledge and recognise First Nations People, but in its entirety, I think we are in a place where we are able to move forward together as a nation of people,” Monaei said.
“In terms of the QRL and where we are heading as a QRL, I still pinch myself when I log onto our web page and we have a page set up there that recognises and acknowledges the efforts of our Reconciliation Action Plan.
“That says to me as a game, and as a people within the Queensland Rugby League, a big family... that we are heading in the right direction in terms of recognition and in terms of uplifting our young men, our young women, our young children to stay healthy, stay positive, stay connected within our game.”
QRL Reconciliation Action Plan
Monaei said the ongoing support of the QRL board and all staff to succeed was heartening to see, but was mindful of the work still to come to ensure positive outcomes.
“In terms of us moving together as a game, I believe through the support of our QRL board and the people like Glenn (Ottaway) who have helped us along and Scott (Nosworthy) up in Far North Queensland who have been part of that reconciliation journey; has helped … give us a culturally safe platform to share and embrace cultural change within the QRL, which speaks volumes,” Monaei said.
“I am still a current member of the Australia Rugby League Indigenous Council, and even at that level, I still get asked questions from New South Wales Country Rugby League, what is it that we are doing in Queensland that is different from what the Kooris are doing south of the border.
"And (what) I say to them always is that you must have a continuous conversation with people that need to be part of that reconciliation journey and the reconciliation journey needs to be led from the top, which it is it, and it also needs to be steered down the bottom and then we meet halfway.
“And meeting halfway (doesn’t) necessarily mean that we (have embraced) cultural change in its entirety, it certainly doesn’t mean that at all.
“What it means is that we have started the conversation, we have painted a new canvas of our circle dots, our meeting places and we will continue the journey.
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“I think that is very important for those of us in the QRL across our sector to be cognisant of that... that the cultural impact of a community in north Queensland is different from the cultural impact of a community in central Queensland, compared to south east or south west.
“You can go out to Thargomindah and they have a different way of embracing culture out there, so whilst you are walking and working on these countries of the custodians of that area; take the time out of your work to spend time with them, to listen and to embrace their learnings, their teaching.
“I think that’s quite a powerful tool to have within Queensland Rugby League where we can then consider some of their train of thought and implement that into some of our practices to make it a lot easier.
“Our game can be a game that embraces different cultures, it is quite a diverse game and I think that for us as First Nations People to be able to have this platform … really does give credence to us...
“This year, ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ – the national theme for our national day of celebration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander day of celebrations – is something that I am very, very proud of in terms of what we have achieved and what we will continue to tick off in terms of our cultural capability.
“We will continue to work with all of our business services areas within the QRL to help lift the cultural capability of our staff so that you then become empowered and that you then become part of that reconciliation journey and that we are able to turn that page and write a script we will be able to craft together as a QRL family moving forward.”
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The fact the rescheduled NAIDOC Week fell in the middle of the victorious men’s and women’s State of Origin campaigns was particularly fitting, given the influence Indigenous players have had in the successes of both teams over the years.
A special captain’s run jersey featuring an Indigenous design was also worn by the Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons team this year, incorporating culture and the highlighting the contributions of Indigenous women to rugby league.
“(This year), Origin series celebrates 40 years of Origin,” Monaei said.
“For me, making sure through the Indigenous Advisory Committee that recognition of the contributions of people like the great Arthur Beetson needs to be recognised, we will start that conversation, we will open up that avenue to ensure that the legacy that was left by the great Arthur Beetson and others that proceeded before him and after him will continue.
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“I think that’s quite important that we have an Indigenous history, a rich Indigenous history within the Queensland Rugby League and that history is something that through the Indigenous Advisory Committee is something we need to hold, embrace and uplift so that we don’t lose the continuity of our Indigenous history in the game.”