Hockey Australia CEO Matt Favier discusses the background, inspiration and excitement around this weekend’s Indigenous themed matches.
The Hockeyroos and Kookaburras will take on Argentina on 6/7 March at Perth Hockey Stadium at Curtin University in the FIH Pro League. The double headers will be the first time Australian hockey has celebrated and formally acknowledged the contribution Indigenous players have made to the sport.
Thanks for your time Matt. Why is this Indigenous weekend so important and unique for Hockey Australia?
MF: “We are taking an opportunity for hockey in Australia to celebrate Indigenous players who have played for Australia over time. It’s not something that we have truly had an opportunity to do, so it’s our chance to say thank you and to acknowledge, and also more broadly to recognise the role that Indigenous people play to Australian culture and our community, in particular in sport.
It’s a combination of those things that we are mindful of and wanting to be engaged with and to celebrate.”
Hockey Australia as never done anything like this before – where did the initial thought stem from?
MF: “It was an initiative through our Head of High Performance, Toni Cumpston and the High Performance Team. Surprisingly we haven’t done something like this as a sport before despite our history and Indigenous players like Nova, Des Abbott, Joel Carroll, Baeden Choppy and Lorelle Morrissey having represented Australia in the past. We have some players of Indigenous heritage playing now, so it’s an appropriate time to do it. We are a little bit late to do it but nevertheless, we are really thrilled that we are able to do it.”
What does it mean to have someone like Nova Peris paint the artwork and come up wit the designs on the front of the Indigenous playing shirts?
MF: “It is extraordinary to have somebody like Nova, who is Australia’s first Indigenous gold medallist and dual Olympian, to be able to firstly be excited about supporting this initiative and be engaged with it is terrific for our sport.
It is a wonderful thing to have engaged with her and for her to be able to give back to a sport that has given her so much. We are really thrilled that we’ve been able to engage a person of her calibre to be able to put her designs on the uniforms that the players will be wearing.”
What Indigenous programs are Hockey Australia involved in currently?
MF: “The Fortescue Metal Group (FMG) Indigenous Pilbara Hockey Program is our flagship program, the one we are most heavily and historically engaged with.
We are also supporting a program that is being led out of Cairns called, ‘the Aspire to be Deadly Program’. That program is being led by a highly motivated woman named Julie McNeil from the Cairns Hockey Association. We have only become aware of that program in the last 12 months and we think it is a terrific model and one that we are possibly looking at extending in terms of other activities that we can lead on.
We have supported an initiative in the Northern Territory where we have provided some HookIn2Hockey packs to activate a community program in Katherine through Hockey NT, so they are the three key things we have been doing in the past 12 months.”
What activations are going to be taking place across the Pro League matches against Argentina?
MF: “We will have very much an Indigenous theme across the two match days. We will have some cultural activities incorporated in the match day on Saturday 7 March, so that will really add to the celebration of the Indigenous round.
We have invited the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, the Honourable Ken Wyatt AM MP, to attend. There will also be a Welcome to Country and other Indigenous cultural elements.
But probably the piece that will be particularly exciting will be kids from the Cairns Aspire to be Deadly Indigenous Program having the opportunity to play a small game at half time of both matches on Saturday. This will be part of celebrating current and future Indigenous talent by giving these kids an opportunity to experience something they would never have had the chance to do before.”