BNSW Acknowledgement of Country Video | Behind the Story

Written by Jaylee Ismay
4 December, 2023

Basketball NSW has recently unveiled an Acknowledgement of Country video. The video’s premise is to highlight the profound connection between basketball and numerous local communities across the state, showcasing four prominent Aboriginal & Torres Strait nations. In First Nations communities, meeting places hold great significance, and the inclusion of stadiums and outdoor courts as meeting places in basketball amplifies the strong message conveyed throughout the video and will serve as an important aspect to be utilised following on from 2024 at any BNSW event that is unable to be hosted by a local elder. 

The Acknowledgement of Country is a vital component of respecting and honouring the traditional owners of the land on which the events are held and recognising their enduring connection to the land. 

The video features a diverse mix of junior domestic players, future state team representatives, Indigenous Basketball representatives, referees, and coaches, with a mix of ages and backgrounds. Filmed across different locations (to demonstrate our far-reaching associations), the video showcases the beauty and uniqueness of various locales in New South Wales. New South Wales has over 50+ different nations spread across the state, with a number of them spread over quite large boundary lines. The locations chosen for filming include the breathtaking coastlines of Byron Bay (northernmost basketball association), the stunning landscape of Dubbo (westernmost basketball association), the thriving town of Wagga Wagga (one of the most southern basketball associations), and the culturally rich area of Redfern (central metro association).

Byron Bay (Bundjalung Country) is a well-known coastal town known for its great surf spots, crystal-clear waters, and pristine beaches and features strongly throughout the video. Many significant landmarks including Cape Byron Lighthouse were selected as the staple for the shooting location as it sits on Australia’s most easterly point, a shining light over Byron Bay and is very special to the Bundjalung of Byron Bay (Arakwal) Aboriginal people. 

From this vantage point, several significant First Nations historic sites can be observed. One of these notable sites is the Julian Rocks “Nguthungulli” Nature Reserve, consisting of two small islands located approximately 2.5 kilometers off the coast of Byron Bay. These islets hold immense cultural importance to the Arakwal people, as they are intertwined with several significant Dreaming stories.

One such story revolves around Nguthungulli, also known as Father of the World, who created the land, water, animals, and plants. Legend has it that Nguthungulli rests in a cave at Julian Rocks. Throughout generations, the Elders have passed down instructions to protect Nguthungulli from any misuse, as it could lead to catastrophic consequences.

Additionally, from the months of May to September, it is common to spot humpback whales traveling between the rocks and the mainland. 

Byron Bay Basketball Association’s Anthony Hack is a Jaadwa man of the Wotjobaluk Nation from Western Victoria. Now living in Northern NSW he is grateful to be able to live and play basketball on Arakwal, Bundjalung Country. Anthony was a referee at the 2022 National Indigenous Basketball Tournament (NIBT) and he also works closely in the community with coaching, volunteering and promoting the game. 

Dubbo (Wiradjuri Country) is situated in the Orana region of New South Wales and is known for its diverse flora and fauna, with a range of national parks and reserves housing various species. With many iconic sites and landmarks scattered throughout the township, a specific mural was chosen to be the focal point for the video. The nine-meter-high mural, situated in the Trafalgar Street carpark, showcases Aunty Pear Gibbs, a local activist. 

This remarkable artwork, created by the renowned Melbourne-based artist, Adnate, represents the Past, Present, and Future. It pays homage to a woman who championed the rights of her fellow Aboriginal people in the 1920s. Aunty Pear Gibbs, born in 1901, was an influential figure in the early 20th-century Australian Aboriginal rights movement. Her impactful contributions include operating a support camp for the unemployed, delivering the first radio broadcast by an Aboriginal woman, and organizing the historic Day of Mourning protests in 1938—a pivotal moment in Australia’s Aboriginal civil rights activism. Furthermore, she established a hostel in Dubbo in 1960, providing care for the families of Aboriginal hospital patients. Aunty Pear Gibbs spent the majority of her adult life in Dubbo until her passing in 1983. The inclusion of a young child, depicted alongside Pearl in Adnate’s mural, serves as a powerful symbol of a promising future.

Other local landmarks such as the Devils Hole Reserve were also featured to bring to life prominent features of the town that all sectors of the community enjoy. 

Indigenous Basketball Australia Regional Coordinator Coach Chrystal O’Brien & BNSW High Performance athlete Tully Pickering were selected as an impactful duo, both have connections to the Wiradjuri people and the town of Dubbo plus are driven by their passion for basketball. Chrystal played for NSW Country at the state level, while Tully is a rising star in our talent programs and represented NSW at the NIBT tournament.

Wagga Wagga (Wiradyuri Country) is a regional city that is becoming increasingly popular and vibrant, known for its reputation as the sporting hub of New South Wales. With a long list of sacred sites and noteworthy locations that feature so heavily across the local area, plenty of places were captured in the video.  

One of the main filming locations known as Wagga Beach by locals, which is part of the Wiradyuri Reserve. This reserve holds great significance for the Wiradyuri people in the Wagga Wagga area. Traditionally, the reserve served as a gathering place for the Wiradyuri community, offering access to the riverside, beach, and shallow waters. Even in modern times, the Wiradyuri Reserve to Gobba Beach corridor of the Murrumbidgee River remains an important Aboriginal camping and meeting area. It has been used for traditional activities such as corroboree, fishing, camping, swimming, and river crossings by local Wiradjuri groups.

A tree situated by the beachside holds great cultural significance for the Wiradyuri people. Over time, two branches of the tree have been grafted together, serving as a boundary tree and navigational point. Additionally, there is a prominent tree that marks the border between different clan groups of the Wiradyuri nation, featuring a remarkable carving of a face on its trunk. The video also showcases other trees that have oval scars on the trunk  (now known as scar trees), from which coolamons were cut out. These coolamons were traditionally used by Aboriginal women as multi-purpose shallow vessels for carrying water, fruits, nuts, and even cradling babies.

Also throughout the town, canola fields are plentiful with paddocks turning into seas of yellow as canola crops burst into flower creating a breathtaking vista for locals and tourists alike, a true staple of the local community. The Rock Nature Reserve, Kengal Aboriginal Place, also adds to the spectacle of the rich history of the region which is a powerful shot within the video. Kengal Aboriginal Place has been a Dreaming place, a lookout and a ceremonial site for the Wiradyuri people for thousands of years. It is culturally taboo for uninitiated Wiradyuri women and uninitiated males to enter certain areas of Kengal Aboriginal Place, which includes the summit of the Rock however women were known to give birth at the saddle of the Rock.

Local Wagga Wagga Basketball representative Hugo Swan was selected to speak to camera and is a proud Galari Wiradyuri man, belonging to the Grant’s on his Grandmother’s line and Dunn’s on his Grandfather’s line from the Condobolin, Wellington and Dubbo areas. Hugo spends numerous hours each week on the court at his home association not only as a player, but a referee and Aussie Hoops coach. He enjoys mentoring younger players to keep active and involved in basketball.

Finally, Redfern (Eora Nation) is an area known for its cultural significance, with a rich history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Still a hub for activism and innovation, Redfern is a safe and strong community that is proud of their sporting heritage with several high-profile athletes calling the suburb home. With such a strong pull to the community, sport paves the way to connection with many of the local streets housing infrastructure to play with friends and family. 

Hugo Street Reserve, located at the intersection of Hugo and Vine Streets in Redfern, holds historical significance and was hand-selected to feature in the video. Originally developed with houses and a corner shop in the early 1880s, the site faced challenges during the Great Depression of the 1920s. High unemployment rates led to the abandonment of the houses, which were subsequently repossessed by Colonial Mutual Life. Vandalism further deteriorated the properties, prompting the Redfern Council to order their demolition.

Between 1948 and 1956, the South Sydney Municipal Council gradually acquired the site with the intention of transforming it into a playground. In 1957, toilets and a cantilevered roof weather shelter were constructed, providing additional amenities for visitors.

Interestingly, in 1977, a 16-year-old resident named Matthew Raschke wrote a letter to the Council, expressing his desire for a basketball ring to be installed at the reserve. To his surprise, the Council approved his request, eventually expanding it to include a full basketball court. Matthew Raschke, the son of Dr. John Raschke, the founder of the Australian National Basketball League, played an influential role in the development of the reserve’s facilities.

Today, Hugo Street Reserve stands as a testament to the area’s history and its commitment to providing recreational opportunities for the community. Paired with the murals painted across the streets away from the Redfern Train Station, this area is at the heart of so many of the Aboriginal and Indigenous communities and was an obvious choice to be prominent within the storytelling of the video as a whole. 

Brother and sister, Adam & Ruby Prasad were also excited to join the project and showed off their sibling rivalry, making it a truly magical moment for the video. They are proud Wiradyuri//Dharug people. With ties to the Hall and Bell families in Forbes and the Everingham/Woodbury mob in the Hawkesbury. Both were born and raised on Dharawal land in Campbelltown and they both have a strong connection to their culture. Adam’s personal totem is the Porcupine and Ruby’s is the Kookaburra. Both are proud Bankstown Association juniors and have both represented NSW at the IBA NIBT tournament in Southern QLD. 

The music mixed to bring life to the visuals was produced by John Blake ex Sydney Kings player and legendary DJ. The Didgeridoo track was performed by the talented Bailey and David Scholes, proud Dunghutti/ Gumbaynggir young men originally from Kempsey on the Mid North Coast. Bailey 19, currently lives and works on the lands of the Bidjigal people. He is employed as an Aboriginal Education Officer at La Perouse Primary School where he supports students with their education and teaches male students to play the Yidagi (didgeridoo). Bailey also works as a Game Development Officer for the NRL. David, 15 is living on Awabakal Country and attends Waratah High School as a Year 9 student. He frequently performs the Yidagi at various school and community events throughout the Newcastle area.  Both boys have been practicing and performing the Yidagi since they were in pre-school. 

The uniforms manufactured by iAthletic feature the artwork titled ‘The land we share’ by Jordan Ardler who is from the Aboriginal community in La Perouse and “represents how the land meets the waters. Rivers, ocean, grass and bush land are the main source of our survival and have been since the beginning of time.”

Yellow outlined circles within the background of the artwork identify every Aboriginal community in NSW. The dotted wavy blue lines represent the beauty in our shorelines, erosions the ocean creates on our land and riverbanks. Yellow dotted lines show how our song lines continue to be present throughout our journey of life.  The central symbols symbolise the connection between communities, our lands and culture continuously sharing knowledge and stories. The white circular patterns fading out of the central figures portrays the ripple effect, ongoing growth, strength and power that our cultural practices present to us which allows our future generations to understand our surroundings.  The arch figures at the bottom of the design represent and acknowledge our ancestors in our past who paved the way for our present.

The Acknowledgement of Country video aims to convey inclusiveness and unity, whilst simultaneously acknowledging the traditional owners of the land. As the video is set to be used at any Basketball NSW event that requires an official Acknowledgement of Country from 2024, it is sure to help promote a deeper understanding of the significance of the land and its traditional owners.

All involved in the production of the Acknowledgement of Country video worked hard to ensure that the tone of the piece was both respectful and informative. A great amount of detail and care was taken to ensure that all involved were able to learn about the significance of Acknowledging Country, with special focus being placed on the importance of understanding the country’s first peoples and their culture.

Basketball NSW aims to set the bar high with this initiative, setting a standard for other sporting organisations to follow suit in acknowledging and promoting inclusiveness and community respect for Australia’s First Nations people.

The organisation would like to thank the following individuals and organisations for their support and guidance during the project;

  • Bundjalung of Byron Bay Aboriginal Corporation (Arawkal)
  • Rikkarra McGuinness
  • Aunty Yvonne Hill
  • Aunty Cheryl Penrith and Luke Penrith
  • Uncle James Ingram
  • Isabel Forbes
  • Anthony Hack
  • Hugo Swan
  • Tully Pickering
  • Chrystal O’Brien
  • Ruby & Adam Prasad
  • Anna Chapman
  • John Blake
  • Bailey & David Scholes
  • iAthletic 
  • Basketball NSW RAP Committee 

Most importantly we would like to thank Videographer Lara Sinclair for working with our team to bring the story to life in such a cinematic and thoughtful way. Lara is a freelance videographer who works very closely with Basketball Australia and the WNBL. 

In conclusion, the Acknowledgement of Country video is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all those involved in its production, and it represents a significant step forward in creating a more inclusive and diverse sporting community. It is hoped that this initiative will inspire other organisations to explore ways to honour and respect the traditional owners of the land on which they operate.

Video Creative: Jaylee Ismay
Videographer: Lara Sinclair
Music: John Blake,  Bailey & David Scholes
Artwork: Jordan Ardler

Click HERE to head to the Basketball NSW Indigenous webpage.


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