Powerful & Symbolic

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.


Cricket Indigenous Round

Cricket Victoria celebrated the first Indigenous Round in the Premier Cricket competition with a ceremony at Bill Lawry Oval prior to the Northcote home match against St Kilda and the Mullagh Wills Foundation was involved in the celebrations.

Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin tossed the coin for the match and conducted a Welcome to Country Ceremony and spoke about her family’s involvement with cricket over many years. Rohan O’Neill from Cricket Victoria spoke about the importance of the game and Ian Coutts from the Mullagh Wills Foundation reminded both teams of the remarkable journey of the Aboriginal Cricket Team in 1866.

Northcote Indigenous player, Ben Abbatangelo, was joined by St Kilda captain Rob Quiney to sign the commemorative Message Book and a message was included in the book by the Presidents of both clubs.

Click here for the pre-match article on Cricket Victoria website


Brimbank Civic Ceremony

A civic reception was held at the Brimbank City Council Civic Centre to welcome the Message Book to the City of Brimbank on November 22nd.

A traditional smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country was presented by Auntie Joy Murphy, a senior Wurundjeri elder of the Kulin alliance in Victoria. This was held outside the Civic Centre in Sunshine prior to the reception inside.

Brimbank City Council Mayor Cr John Hedditch spoke of the City’s delight at being involved in the Journey to the G project and of the acknowledgement from local cricket clubs in the region at the previous weekend’s matches which included markings on the ground to celebrate the “Reconciliation Round”.

City of Melton Mayor, Cr Sophie Ramsey, attended the reception to officially ‘handover’ the Message Book to Cr Hedditch and messages of support which will be included in the commemorative book were read out to guests. This included a message from Hon Natalie Hutchins MP, State Minister for Local Government, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister for Industrial Relations (signed as Natalie Hutchins MP & Cricket Mum).

Mullagh Wills Foundation Chair addressed the reception guests outlining the incredible story of the Aboriginal Cricket Team of 1866 and the wonderful community support the Journey to the G had received and how positive the message of reconciliation has been along the journey.

The newly elected councillors of the Brimbank City Council held their first meeting following the reception and this included a report on the Mullagh Wills Foundation Journey to the G project and the reading of the official message from the City to be included in the commemorative Message Book.

The Brimbank City Council, in recognition of its commitment to Reconciliation, acknowledges and commends the Mullagh Wills Foundation ‘Reconciliation Through Sport’ initiative which recognises and celebrates the Aboriginal Cricket Team of the late 1860s.

A Selection of messages from the community:

Aboriginal Culture and Heritage is an important part of modern Victoria. We have so much to learn, so much to respect. It is time to recognise it is time for Aboriginal self-determination and Treaty. Natalie Hutchins MP & Cricket mum.

We respect all communities and through sports are bound together as a multi-cultural community. Suni Phillips, Brimbank Strikers

Sunshine Heights Cricket Club congratulates the Brimbank City Council on endorsing this important celebration of the Mullagh Wills match at the MCG 150 years ago.

The Sunshine United Cricket Club would like to express how humbling it was for us to participate in the celebration of the 150-year anniversary of the historic Australian Cricket team. This event provided a wonderful opportunity to bring people together, breakdown barriers and promote the message or reconciliation and understanding.

On behalf of the North West Metropolitan Cricket Association we would like to acknowledge and strongly endorse the initiative of the Mullagh Wills foundation in remembering and honouring the first truly Australian international cricket team. We acknowledge this initiative will only support and encourage reconciliation through sport. Well done to all involved in the Mullagh Wills foundation. 

Melton City Council

It was the first meeting of the new Melton City Council on Monday evening and the Mullagh Wills Foundation Journey to the G project was the first item on the agenda. The Melton City Council officially received the commemorative Message Book and all Councillors and the CEO included their signatures beneath the Council’s official Statement of Reconciliation.

The Mayor, Cr Sophie Ramsey, who had officiated at a special function at the Kirrip Aboriginal Community House in Melton earlier in the month, spoke enthusiastically about the Journey to the G project and the importance of the Melton City Council being involved and recording a message in the Message Book.

The Mayor welcomed the Mullagh Wills Foundation Chair, Jane Nathan, who outlined the Foundation and the incredible support that has been provided by communities in the Journey to the G project. Jane also thanked the City of Melton for the outstanding support provided by the local community and the Council for the Journey to the G and the commemoration of the 1866 Aboriginal Cricket Team.

Melton City Council Statement of Reconciliation in the Message Book

“Melton City Council acknowledges the skill and commitment shown by the All Aboriginal Cricket Team in the 1860’s firstly in the 1866 Boxing Day match with the Melbourne Cricket Club and secondly, as the first Australian cricket team to tour England.

It is a story of triumph and enduring spirit, in the overcoming over the racial inequality of the day. Racial inequality still exists.

We acknowledge the past injustices faced by our First Peoples and are committed to play our part in ensuring that these injustices are not repeated. We appreciate that we still have a long journey ahead of us.

The heart of sport can successfully drive this process of Reconciliation. It breaks down barriers and unites people of all races to join together for a common purpose. It promotes understanding, tolerance and humility. United, we are a powerful force against adversity.

Well done Mullagh Wills Foundation as organisers of Journey to the ‘G’, in bringing everyone together to celebrate these important messages.”

Ballan takes the honours

The Ballan Cricket Club won the Mullagh Wills Trophy and the bragging rights over Buninyong in a tight match at Ballan Recreation Reserve on Saturday. The game was decided in the final over before tea on the second day when Ballan hit the winning runs with one wicket in hand.

The two clubs were keen to support the Mullagh Wills Foundation Journey to the G project and to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Aboriginal Cricket Team journey to Melbourne to play against the Melbourne Cricket Club in 1866.

Michael Flynn, the Executive Officer from Sports Central in Ballarat and a member of the Buninyong Cricket Club, initiated the match and said it was important for all Australians to have an understanding of this incredible event in our history.

“This is an amazing story and while it is about cricket it is so much more than that, it provides a wonderful example of people working together and giving everyone an opportunity. We congratulate the Mullagh Wills Foundation on the initiative to commemorate the 1866 Boxing Day match and to involve the communities that played a part in the journey 150 years ago.

“Both clubs are pleased to have had the opportunity to support the Journey to the G and hope we have been able to further promote the story to ensure more and more people are aware of this incredible event.”

Jane Nathan, Chair of the Mullagh Wills Foundation, presented the Mullagh Wills Trophy to the Ballan captain, Mick Nolan. Mick and his Buninyong counterpart, Dan Kitchen present Jane with club caps embroidered with the Mullagh Wills Foundation match details and confirmed both Clubs are now looking at making this match an annual event.

Players of both teams signed the Message Book and included a message of support.


City of Ballarat

The Message Book has been welcomed to the City of Ballarat following a reception at the Ballarat Town Hall this week. The Message Book was presented to the Mayor of Ballarat, Cr Des Hudson by the Mayor of Golden Plains, Cr Des Phelan. The Golden Plains Council being the custodians of the Message Book for the last three weeks.

The presentation of the Message Book was part of the Civic Ceremony which included the unveiling of the Ballarat Town Hall Wadawurrung Acknowledgment plaque which was unveiled by the Mayor and Wadawurrung Elder, Aunty Marlene Gilson.

The activities commenced outside where Aunty Marlene’s daughter, Tammy Gilson,  conducted a traditional smoking ceremony before moving into the Ballarat Town Hall where Aunty Marlene honoured the guests with a Welcome to Country.

Before presenting the Message Book to the City of Ballarat, Golden Plains Mayor, Cr Des Phelan, said it had been an honour for the Golden Plains Shire Council to host the Message Book and said as well as the official message from Council, a number of sporting clubs, schools and residents had included messages of support. In handing over the book he acknowledged the importance of this significant event and expressed the Council’s support for reconciliation through sport.

Mayor, Cr Des Hudson was delighted to welcome the Message Book to the City of Ballarat and confirmed it would be on display in the Ballarat Town Hall for the next three weeks. Cr Hudson spoke about the incredible story that is the Aboriginal Cricket Team caught the last train to Melbourne on December 21, 1866 for the Boxing Day match and the team, including Johnny Mullagh and Tom Wills, played against Ballarat in January 1867.

Richard Kennedy, the eldest grandson of two members of the original Aboriginal Cricket Team (Dick-a-Dick and Jim Crow), who honoured guests at the launch in Harrow, Western Victoria, in March was another special guest and he spoke about the history of the Aboriginal Cricket Team and the importance of remembering their incredible achievements so long ago and the role the station holders in the Western District played in teaching the Aboriginals the game of cricket.

The ceremony was completed with a fun session of ‘indoor cricket’ in the Ballarat Town Hall courtesy of Cricket Victoria.


Pyrenees Council Welcome


The Message Book was presented to Pyrenees Council Mayor, Cr Michael O’Connor at a special function prior to the Pyrenees Council meeting in Beaufort today. Councillors were joined by Council CEO Jim Nolan, Council staff and community members at the special afternoon tea function.

The Council confirmed their pleasure in being involved in the Journey to the G and were interested to hear the story behind the Message Book and the Mullagh Wills Foundation. A number of local sporting and community groups will be involved with the Journey to the G and will include messages of support in the commemorative book while it is in the Pyrenees Shire.

The Pyrenees Council will be the keepers of the Message Book until mid-August when it will be presented to the Golden Plains Council.