The Commonwealth Bank Boxing Day Test match between Australia and Pakistan will honour the 150thAnniversary of the 1866 Boxing Day match between an Aboriginal XI and the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC).
The Boxing Day Test and an array of lead-up activities will take place to recognise the historical significance of the match in 1866, and celebrate the legacy left by that landmark Aboriginal cricket team.
“Commemorating this anniversary is about honouring the legacy left by the 1866 Aboriginal XI, celebrating our recent growth in participation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and acknowledging our commitment to work even harder to ensure that cricket continues to be a sport for all Australians,” said Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland.
The first major activity was initiated today at the MCG, where Cricket Australia was joined by the Hon Natalie Hutchins MP, Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and representatives from the Commonwealth Bank to reveal the piece of commemorative artwork that will be integrated into all celebrations associated with the 1866 match and the 1868 Aboriginal team that toured England.
The artwork, ‘Walkabout Wickets’, was designed by Aboriginal artist Ms Fiona Clarke, who is a descendent of the Kirrae Whurrong Clan in the Western District in Victoria. Ms Clarke is also a descendent of players from both the 1866 and 1868 Aboriginal teams.
“It is an incredible honour to have my artwork chosen to commemorate the 150th anniversary of both the 1866 Boxing Day match and 1868 Aboriginal team that toured England,” said Ms Clarke. “As a descendant of players from both of those anniversaries I am thrilled to be able to provide the Australian public with my representation of those historic events.”
Also announced today were details of the inaugural Mullagh-Wills Oration, the first to be delivered with a focus on the connection between historical events and the present, between cricket and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
In partnership with the MCC and Victoria University, the oration will take place at the MCG on 13 Decemberand will be co-delivered by the 2009 Australian of the Year and advocate for Indigenous rights, Professor Mick Dodson AM, and Dr Greg De Moore, author of Tom Wills and A National Game.
“Over recent times I have done a lot of work with Cricket Australia and have seen firsthand the incredible growth and commitment they have to growing the game for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” said Prof Dodson. “To be chosen to co-deliver the inaugural Mullagh-Wills Oration is something that I will certainly cherish.”
“I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to co-deliver the inaugural Mullagh-Wills Oration,” said De Moore. “The significance of these key moments in the history of cricket and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a story that needs to be shared with the Australian public and I am honoured to play my part in telling that story.”
The oration is named in honour of Tom Wills, who captain-coached the Aboriginal XI in 1866, and Johnny Mullagh, the side’s star all-rounder who later went on to captain the Aboriginal XI which toured England in 1868 – the first cricket team from Australia to tour internationally.
Fans attending the Boxing Day Test will see a commemorative pre-match anthem ceremony and a customary welcome to country prior to the first ball. The commemorative artwork will also feature on the playing shirts of the Australian team, the match day stumps and throughout the stadium.
The MCC Museum, located at the MCG, will also unveil a special display that reflects the historic MCC v Aboriginal XI Boxing Day match, featuring a ball presented to the MCC’s W.H.Handfield “for his excellent bowling in the match”.
Hundreds of Indigenous Australians are expected to make the journey from all parts of the state to take part in the festivities. Commemoration activities will continue right through until 2018, when Cricket Australia will recognise and celebrate the achievements of the 1868 Aboriginal team.
Women’s and men’s Indigenous teams will tour England in 2018 to retrace the steps of that squad. The Commonwealth Bank, which on Monday announced it has become the presenting partner of Australian Cricket’s diversity and inclusion program A Sport for All, will also be a key partner in the commemorations.
“Commonwealth Bank’s investment in Australian cricket is now focused more than ever on the exciting future of the game for Indigenous people, women and local club players. Why? Because diversity in sport is as crucial as it is in business,” said Stuart Tucker, General Manager Brand and Marketing Services, Commonwealth Bank.
“At CBA we’re investing more in growth opportunities for Indigenous businesses and strengthening relationships with Indigenous communities to enhance financial wellbeing. That’s why we’re committed to championing Indigenous cricket, by recognising its remarkable past and investing in its future,” Mr Tucker said.
About the artwork, ‘Walkabout Wickets’, in the words of artist Fiona Clarke
‘Walkabout Wickets’ is about the ‘Cricket Walkabout’ stars, past, present and future. The symbol that I have used for the design means ‘MINKGILL’, which means STAR, from the Aboriginal Dreamtime.
My ancestors would gather all the clans together in the thousands at a special ‘meeting place’ each year for many cultural reasons, including Aboriginal games. The large circle represents the grounds the ‘Walkabout’ team played cricket on. The lines between the smaller circles represent the wickets knocked down by my Aboriginal ancestor cricket players, proudly beating the English players at their own game.
The smaller circles represent the ovals around the Globe. The dark brown circles inside the little circles represent the ‘meeting place’ of the ovals, that past, present and future players play on.
My personal connection to the 1866 team is through the two brothers in the team, Mosquito (James Couzens) and Johnny Cuzens. I am Mosquito’s great, great grand-daughter.