The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Johnston

AN­DREW Walker isn’t just help­ing turn around Echuca Foot­ball Club’s on-field suc­cess, he is also pi­o­neer­ing an in­dige­nous round in the Goul­burn Val­ley League. Start­ing to­mor­row when he and his team­mates will run onto Vic­to­ria Park in the club’s – and the league’s – first in­dige­nous jumpers to mark NAIDOC Week.

FOOT­BALL may have taken An­drew Walker away from coun­try for a long time while those in Echu­caMoama watched his AFL ca­reer go from po­ten­tial to proven.

And when this stel­lar run with Carl­ton fi­nally came to an end for Walker, it would prove to be any­thing but that.

To­mor­row Echuca’s foot­ballers, in­clud­ing co-coach and team­mate Walker, will run onto Vic­to­ria Park in an in­dige­nous strip – a first for the Goul­burn Val­ley Foot­ball Netball League.

At the same time the net­ballers will also step onto the courts in a match­ing out­fit, a com­bined mo­ment about which Walker is be­com­ing quite emo­tional.

And is, for him, a fit­ting high­light for, and cul­mi­na­tion of, NAIDOC Week, a week that has show­cased his peo­ple, the Yorta Yorta.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to me,” Walker said.

“Echuca’s the place that I grew up. I spent 17 years here play­ing foot­ball with this club as a young man.

“They gave me the op­por­tu­ni­ties to play and to learn about the game. So be­ing able to tie some­thing so spe­cial to my fam­ily and my in­dige­nous her­itage to the Echuca Foot­ball Netball Club, which is re­ally my other fam­ily, was some­thing that was al­ways in the back of my mind when I took on this role,” he said.

Walker worked with Yorta Yorta artist Clive Atkin­son to de­sign a jumper that rep­re­sents the story of in­dige­nous cul­ture in and around Echuca-Moama.

Their de­sign fea­tures three wavy lines for the three rivers — Goul­burn, Murray and Cam­paspe — an im­por­tant sym­bol within Yorta Yorta cul­ture.

In keep­ing with the tra­di­tion of the club, its mono­gram, over the hearts of its play­ers, has been recre­ated in the style of the Abo­rig­i­nal flag.

WALKER said it was im­por­tant for the jumper to re­flect Yorta Yorta cul­ture for all in­dige­nous peo­ple of Echuca.

“I wanted to make this spe­cial for the lo­cal in­dige­nous play­ers and fam­i­lies to share the story of the Yorta Yorta peo­ple,” he said.

“It has been a won­der­ful project to be in­volved with, and it is some­thing that I am quite pas­sion­ate about.”

And NAIDOC pro­vided the per­fect plat­form for the un­veil­ing of his dream.

“NAIDOC week is a sig­nif­i­cant time,” Walker agreed. “It brings our in­dige­nous com­mu­nity to­gether and recog­nises what we as a com­mu­nity have con­trib­uted to our great coun­try.

“For some­one like my pop, who is 90 in two weeks, it’s an im­por­tant week, as it is for all in­dige­nous fam­i­lies through­out the coun­try, so to have this at the end of it can be some­thing very spe­cial.”

The jumper is some­thing with which many within the com­mu­nity have wanted to be in­volved.

The Lod­don Cam­paspe In­dige­nous Fam­ily Vi­o­lence Group came for­ward in the early stages of plan­ning and asked to be in­volved, and has spon­sored the uni­forms, as well as do­nat­ing their time on game day to help with the run­ning of ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We are re­ally for­tu­nate that Ann Spit­tle, Justin Homer and Kate Booth jumped on board to help us out,” Walker said.

“It shows that when you push for­ward with an event like this that our whole com­mu­nity does want to be in­volved.

“For spon­sor­ing the jumpers, as well as do­nat­ing their time and help­ing us out in any way they can, we are in­cred­i­bly grate­ful.”

Yorta Yorta el­der Un­cle Col Walker will per­form a smok­ing cer­e­mony, which is a cleans­ing cer­e­mony for both Echuca and Sey­mour to come through to­gether.

Un­cle Col will also per­form a Wel­come to Coun­try, with Nar­jic Day-Burns play­ing the didgeri­doo, as well dances be­ing per­formed be­fore the match.

Af­ter the match, Madi ColvilleWalker will also per­form for the play­ers.

Walker said the day will pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity for all to learn more about in­dige­nous cul­ture.

“I think it’s im­por­tant that peo­ple aren’t em­bar­rassed about their knowl­edge of in­dige­nous cul­ture,” he said.

“I have had ques­tions from peo­ple about what a smok­ing cer­e­mony is or why we do a Wel­come to Coun­try, and to me that’s a breath of fresh air.

“I think some­times peo­ple are afraid about of­fend­ing the in­dige­nous com­mu­nity so they don’t ask ques­tions, so this round gives us an op­por­tu­nity to teach peo­ple about why we do these things.

“So with this hope­fully be­com­ing a GVL wide round next sea­son, it will give all clubs an op­por­tu­nity to talk to their in­dige­nous play­ers about their cul­ture and for ev­ery­one to learn more about it.

“‘It brings us all closer to­gether as a com­mu­nity.”

‘ I think some­times peo­ple are afraid about of­fend­ing the in­dige­nous com­mu­nity so they don’t ask ques­tions, so this round gives us an op­por­tu­nity to teach peo­ple about why we do these things ’


Photo: Luke Hemer.

PROUD FOOT­BALLERS: Echuca’s Kane Mor­ris, Ri­ley Clarke, co-coach Simon Mad­dox, Kell Warde, Jack Atkin­son, co-coach An­drew Walker and Jobee Warde proudly dis­play the club’s first in­dige­nous guernsey it will wear in to­mor­row’s GVL se­nior foot­ball clash with Sey­mour.

Photo: Luke Hemer

PROUD MO­MENT: An­drew Walker in the play­ing top he de­signed in part­ner­ship with in­dige­nous artist Clive Atkin­son.

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