The bats have been packed away, the wickets pulled from the deep red dirt, and the dust has settled in Alice Springs, NT with the closing of the 5th National Indigenous Cricket Championships (NICC) and 27th Imparja Cup.

The events saw some of Australia’s finest First Nations cricketers travel to the red centre to embrace not only their competitive spirit, but one another and celebrate 60,000 years of survival.

Each state and territory was represented in six women’s and seven men’s teams who battled it out for the title. However, NSW took home gold winning both the male and female divisions.

The NICC was focused strongly around culture, with a welcome ceremony on the first day and separate men’s and women’s cultural days.

Cricket Australia’s Community, Diversity and Inclusion manager, Adam Cassidy said the experiences built connection between players and to Arrente Country.

“We had three separate days that had high focus on culture. The first was the official welcome for the event with the Arrente people. We met 400 metres south of the [Heavitree] Gap coming into Alice, we got together as a group and did some traditional dancing; we then all walked to the Gap,” Cassidy said.

“It was very special as traditionally that was what happened thousands of years ago, our Captains had to step forward and explain the business we were coming into Alice for and were accepted through the gate.”

“It was a beautiful moment, and then to walk through those gates as a big group and having meaningful conversations with local people and one another was powerful. That set the scene beautifully for the remainder of the week in terms of the spirit in which the cricket was played and the cultural days.

“I attended the men’s cultural day and …. there were a lot of powerful messages especially for our young players, the idea of not waiting around for the stories to come to you, you must be curious about culture, so we don’t lose some of that stuff.

“From what I’ve heard of the women’s event it was fantastic, they did artwork which told stories of their local areas.”

The championships coincided with Australian cricket’s Reconciliation Round aimed at celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and culture through cricket.

This celebration saw the inclusion of a powerful movement. At the NICC and across the country at cricket matches players joined together in One Continuous Act.

“We feel we’re ready to be leaders and to keep learning as we go and this continuous act was part of our Reconciliation Round which encourages community and premier clubs all over the country … to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples culture through cricket and to properly connect to Country.

“We encouraged everyone to join with the umpires and opposition and hold one hand on the back of the person standing next to you as a sign of support and have your shoes removed so you are connecting to Country at the same time you’re connecting to cricket.

“It’s an idea that came from our artist, Robert Young, who was the artist through the RAP process. The artwork he developed for the Reconciliation Action Plan told that story of the first time a kid in Australia picks up a cricket bat, they’re likely barefoot, whether in their backyard or on the beach; without even knowing it they’re connecting to country the first time they’re connecting with cricket.”

By Rachael Knowles