Melbourne City FC’s Indigenous stars Lydia Williams and Kyah Simon led their teammates on the traditional Birrarung Wilam Walk, ahead of City’s Indigenous Recognition Double Header.
The Walk, which incorporates seven key sites of significance for Aboriginal Australians on the Yarra River, highlights one of Melbourne’s most iconic areas to the people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional custodians of the land.
At Sunday’s A-League and W-League double header at AAMI Park, the Club will acknowledge the original owners on the site of the stadium, the Wurundjeri tribe, educating players, staff and fans on Aboriginal history and traditions, and celebrating the contribution of Aboriginal athletes to the world game.
Williams, considered one of Australia’s most successful Indigenous footballers, has played over 60 matches for the Matildas and was voted the 2016 Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) 2016 Women’s Footballer of the Year. She said that the Club’s recognition of Indigenous athletes and culture was a humbling experience;
“Growing up in regional Western Australia and as a daughter of an Aboriginal tribal elder, I have been lucky to be able to gain an intimate understanding of indigenous people and culture in a small town. But to be able to discover some of the rich history of the Indigenous people here in a big city like Melbourne and to share that with my teammates today was quite moving. It’s fantastic the club is able to showcase and highlight the importance of Aboriginal history through football and I’m honoured to be able to play a part in that.”
Simon became the first Indigenous Australian player to score a goal in a FIFA World Cup in 2011. At just 26 years of age has already played over 75 matches for the Matildas, winning the AFC Women’s Asian Cup and the Julie Dolan Medal in 2010.
“I’ve always been proud of my heritage and everywhere I go I try and inspire the next generation of indigenous players,” Simon said. “My family and friends have hung the Aboriginal flag at international tournaments and seeing that in the crowd was a memorable moment. If I can share a little bit of our history with people all over the world and enlighten my teammates, coaches and fans to our culture and traditions, and even learn some new things myself, I feel like I have made a meaningful contribution.”
Rob Hyatt, Guide and Manager, Education Programs at Koorie Heritage Trust, said it had been a privilege to host the players on the walk.
“This is the second year we have had players from Melbourne City here on the Walk and at the Koorie Heritage Trust. It’s always so rewarding to see the athletes engaged in the strong Aboriginal history of this area, which is now one of the city’s most iconic and popular sites. As a lively modern-day site, it’s our aim to educate people on the importance of this area as an original gathering place for the people of the Kulin nation, and its rich history.”
The Birrurung Willam Walk takes in Federation Square and Birrarung Marr, and includes the Tanderrum trees, the Willam ‘River Camp’, ceremonial rocks and The Birrarung – the Aboriginal name for the Yarra River.
Sunday’s double header will be the first time both the men’s and women’s teams will celebrate the event together. Each season, the Club hosts a number of activities at its home ground, which this year will include;
- Ron Murray, a highly-respected Victorian Indigenous educator, storyteller and musician, will conduct a didgeridoo performance, prior to kick off,
- Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin, an indigenous Australian and Senior Wurundjeri elder of the Kulan alliance, will deliver her traditional ‘Welcome to Country’ greeting to the teams and fans at AAMI Park;
- Auntie Joy will be joined by Lydia Williams and Kyah Simon on the pitch for the Welcome to Country;
- Four Aboriginal children from the La Trobe Valley will lead the teams out for the A-League match, carrying the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags.