The most powerful and symbolic moment from Boxing Day happened before a ball was bowled at the MCG in Australia’s traditional Boxing Day Test Match.
Outside the ground at the Indigenous scar tree in Yarra Park a ceremony involving Aboriginal Elders, the Federal Government, the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Mullagh Wills Foundation celebrated, not just the 150th Anniversary of the Boxing Day cricket match between the All Aboriginal team and the MCC, it brought together people from the communities involved in the Mullagh Wills Foundation Journey to the MCG – from the West Wimmera through to Brimbank municipalities.
Community groups, sporting clubs and Indigenous communities all came together in what was a most powerful moment.
Federal Minister, Hon. Dan Tehan MP, represented the Prime Minister at the ceremony and he was joined by Wotjobaluk Elder Richard Kennedy, (the great-great grandson of Dick-a-Dick – a member of the 1866 Aboriginal Cricket Team), Steven Smith the President of the MCC and David Hawker and Jane Nathan from the Mullagh Wills Foundation.
Richard Kennedy presented an Acknowledgement to Country before officially handing over the commemorative Message Stick to Steven Smith who confirmed this will be displayed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in memory of the Journey to the MCG celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the 1866 Boxing Day match. The Message Stick was presented to the Mullagh Wills Foundation at the launch in Harrow in March and has been held in safe keeping since.
David Hawker, former Member for Wannon and Speaker in Federal House of Parliament then presented the commemorative Message Book to the Hon. Dan Tehan to symbolise the end of the Journey to the MCG from Western Victoria. Dan is the Federal Member for Wannon and was involved in the official launch in March. This Message Book has hundreds of messages of support and reconciliation from the communities in all municipalities involved in the journey, including formal message from each Council.
Such was the impact and meaning of the ceremony, particularly to the Indigenous community, Senior Wurundjeri Elder, Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin asked if she could take the Message Book onto the MCG while she presented the Welcome to Country on the ground prior to the start of play.
After the ceremony Aunty Joy confirmed it was very special to be able to hold this book on the ground during the ceremony because of what it symbolises, bringing communities together from Western Victoria to Melbourne and commemorating a remarkable period in our nations history and the brave young Aboriginal men who travelled to Melbourne to play cricket 150 years earlier.
The Mullagh Wills Foundation is about bringing communities together and thanks to the wonderful support all the municipalities, various community and sporting groups and the Indigenous communities, the Journey to the MCG has succeeded and we have been able to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the Aboriginal Cricket Team 150 year ago.
“The Foundation is about the involvement of communities and recognising the incredible achievements of the Aboriginal Cricket Team 150 years ago, as well as helping to bring communities together and we have been delighted by the involvement and support of all the communities along the way,” said Jane Nathan, Chair of the Mullagh Wills Foundation.
“Our motto is; ‘reconciliation through sport’, and we believe this unique story from our history, particularly the involvement of Tom Wills as the original coach of the team, is a powerful example of recognition and reconciliation, and today this has been recognised in a most powerful way,” added Jane.