Players and staff of the Fremantle Football Club participated in information sessions at the Club this week, engaging in candid discussions on the significance and potential implications that the date 26 January 1788, has for some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The objective of the sessions was to be mindful and respectful of different points of view as Australians engage in meaningful conversations about the topic.
It was also an opportunity to provide greater insights on the impact of the date, through the personal stories told by Indigenous and Multicultural Officer Che Wyatt and NGA coach and Club legend Roger Hayden.
Wyatt, who recently joined the Club in his role was able to articulate some of the emotions he feels each year in the week leading up to 26 January.
“I want to encourage everyone to have safe conversations when it comes to these types of topics that involve my people,” Wyatt said.
“My aim is to get people to talk, I want people to be curious and ask questions.
“From my own experience though, I have always felt a heightened sense of anxiety around this time of the year, due to some of the comments or remarks I hear out in public leading up to the day.
“Growing up, I was always torn because of the way I felt about the date, I never felt comfortable celebrating the day with my own close mates.
“The main reason for having a day that celebrates the country you love, is to come together and celebrate, which is something I want to do because I have a cultural obligation and connection to this country.”
“For a day that is meant to unite us all, the reality is while it is still held on a date that represents the beginning of colonisation, there will still be a large portion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that might feel excluded.”
During the sessions players and staff were reminded that not all opinions are the same and to be conscious of how others are feeling and more importantly continue to engage in safe conversations.
As part of the Club’s Stretch Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), it is committed to promoting inclusivity, understanding, and respect for all cultures through creating a sense of belonging.
Under the respect pillar of the Club’s RAP, players and staff have been empowered with the choice to work on 26 January in exchange for an alternate day of leave.
As a Club deeply rooted in the community, Fremantle looks to move forward with a shared vision for harmony, understanding, and unity.