NAIDOC Week 2021: Celebrating Westfield Matildas Mob

From Karen Menzies to Kyah Simon, Indigenous Australians have made a significant impact on the Westfield Matildas.

There’s a deep irony within the pages of Australian football history.

While the game was introduced in the 19th century by the same colonial forces that denied early recognition to Australia’s First Nations communities, football also became one of the few sporting spaces where Aboriginal people were accepted – even celebrated – as part of Australian cultural life.

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Indeed, First Nations people have been involved in football for far longer than official histories recognise.

“Aboriginal Australia had developed a sporting culture long before Europeans arrived on the Australian continent,” writes Professor John Maynard in his book, The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe.

“William Blandowski, an early pioneer scientist who explored the Murray River region near Mildura in Victoria’s northwest corner, saw an Aboriginal ball game being played by the Nyeri Nyeri, in 1857. It was at Mondellimin, near present day Merbein and it was a kicking game.

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