The 2021 NAIDOC Week theme 'Heal Country' creates opportunities to better understand the importance of Indigenous lands, waters and cultural heritage for all Australians.
Eagles’ defender, Jeremy McGovern, knows how vital this is, growing up on Noongar land and having also spent time with his family in Warburton.
To acknowledge NAIDOC Week and Indigenous Country, McGovern recently joined 2018 NAIDOC elder of the year, Emeritus Professor Simon Forrest for a yarn around the fire in Jirdarup Bushland, which means ‘place of birds’.
The two began by picking up some sand and rubbing it between their hands, before throwing it back into the land as a way of saying hello to the boodja (land). Emeritus Professor Simon Forrest then conducted a traditional Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony to the sounds of Andrew Beck’s digeridoo.
“This NAIDOC Week, we’re speaking about, ‘Heal the Country,’ McGovern said.
“(I grew up in) Albany, so Noongar land, before that was Warburton, my biggest impact was Warburton.
“When I first moved up there, Dad sat us down and explained, ‘this is different country,’ and we fit into Indigenous culture."
“One of the local fellas up there, his name was Carnegie, he sort of looked after us, he was like my second Dad.
“He was making sure we didn’t get into any trouble, he took us hunting, taught us how to hunt.
“All the local foods, all the witchetty grubs, honey ants, bush tomatoes, turkeys, rabbits, we used to get everything.
“Accepted us straight away.
“To me, this is our culture, this Australian culture.
“It’s the longest living culture since people have been put on the earth.”
West Coast Eagles also show their full support for both NAIDOC Week and this year’s ‘Heal Country!’ theme.
“I’m extremely proud, the way they handle it, and how proactive they are in not just NAIDOC Week, in the whole Indigenous space,” McGovern said.
“Trying to understand and help educate, it’s not just NAIDOC Week or Indigenous Round, they take it seriously every single day.”
General Manager of Community and Game Development, Richard O’Connell, also sees embracing NAIDOC Week as an opportunity to further the club’s work in the Indigenous space.
“West Coast Eagles has a long history of playing an active role in WAs reconciliation journey; demonstrated by the establishment of the Wirrpanda Foundation in 2005 and committing to our first Reconciliation Action Plan in 2014,” he said.
“Each year we embrace the opportunity to give voice to our Indigenous male and female players in telling their stories, and what their culture means to them.
“Sharing these stories with our 100,000-plus members can drive a greater understanding of Indigenous culture and celebrate the importance of learning from the past to determine the future.”