Celebrating over a Century of Indigenous Cricket
Long before the Ashes series or Big Bash, a group of Aboriginal cricketers traveled to England – the first organised sports team from Australia to have ever embarked on an international tour.
Sent to the UK for their flashy skills and athleticism, the first XI impressed. They played 47 matches across six months and notched up a respectable record of 14 wins, 14 losses and 19 draws.
The Aboriginal XI were breaking new ground and making history for Australia. The future of Aboriginal cricket looked bright.
Fast forward nearly 150 years and Cricket Australia is working hard to put Indigenous cricket back on the map.
The National Indigenous Cricket Strategy details a bold approach to make cricket the number one sport for all Australians. It focuses on changes at grassroots and professional levels, giving more opportunities to cricketers from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.
Indigenous Engagement Specialist Paul Stewart is a part of a team committed to bringing the strategy to life. Paul works with State and Territory Cricket Association, clubs and communities, helping to grow the number of Indigenous cricket participants across the country.
“I guess the strategy was quite brave at the time. Our focus was to drive participation through the schools and to develop an appetite for the game there (at school) with the view that participants would then transfer to club cricket.”
And it’s working. Cricket Australia has already exceeded the targets set out in the strategy and are on track for another successful year.
“We’re expecting a 40% growth this year which could take us up to 50,000 participants in the 2016-17 cricket season.” Paul said.
Bringing more sport into these communities not only increases the popularity of cricket in general, it can also have important flow-on effects for the health and wellbeing of the local community.
“There’s anecdotal evidence out there to say that sport brings our mob together. It’s probably the only time where we can gather in large mobs other than funerals.” Paul explains.
“We’re hoping our sport can keep kids in school and help them go on to be better role models in their community. And if cricket can play its role that way, it’s another win for us.”
It’s a cliché in sport, but it takes more than just talent to build a winning team. Teams, clubs and communities need support, leadership and role-models to thrive.
Thanks to the strategy, more Indigenous people are playing cricket than ever before, giving Australia an even greater opportunity to produce elite indigenous cricketers – stars like Ash Gardiner, Dan Christian and Jason Gillespie.
With heroes like these, it’s only time before the next generation of cricketers is ready to add another chapter to the ground-breaking history of Aboriginal cricket.