The unveiling of the Wallabies’ first Indigenous jersey moved Kurtley Beale close to tears. I must admit, I felt overcome by emotion when first seeing it too.
Beale’s reaction demonstrates the huge symbolic meaning of the jersey, not only to our Indigenous people, but to all patriotic Australians who recognise the crimes committed against Australia’s Indigenous population since European colonisation.
Anyone who has Indigenous friends, anyone who has seen the conditions many Indigenous people live in until today, anyone who recognises the contribution indigenous Australians made and make to our great country, or anyone who simply cares for our Indigenous fellow Australians should have been moved by the symbolism of the jersey.
For almost the first two centuries of European colonisation of Australia, Indigenous people were treated horribly by both society and the law. They were denied equal rights, were dispossessed of their homes and were routinely discriminated against.
But times are changing.
The landmark 1992 Mabo decision held that the doctrine of Terra Nullius had been a myth created by the colonisers for their own benefit.
In the next couple of years, Australia will have a referendum on whether to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution.
The NRL and AFL have Indigenous rounds, but union should go one step further and make the one-off jersey permanent.
The jersey is a fusion of the traditional Wallabies strip and Indigenous art and flags; it recognises the history and traditions of both Indigenous Australians and the Wallabies.
Aside from the fact the jersey looks brilliant, making it permanent would be an excellent way to recognise the importance of Indigenous Australians to modern society, as well as to Australian rugby.
Further, the jersey simply looks much better than the horrors the Wallabies have worn for most of the last decade (although it is still yellow rather than gold, unfortunately).
Finally, retaining the Indigenous jersey on a permanent basis could have the effect of lessening the private school, old boys club reputation that rugby suffers from in wider Australian society, and hopefully result in getting more Indigenous players playing our great sport.
Given the outstanding contributions of Indigenous players in the past, this could mean nothing but good things for Australian rugby.
Sure, some aspects of the jersey could be improved – for example, the incorporation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags could be better – but the overall design of the jersey would make an excellent long-term Wallabies strip.