For Brooke Peris and Mariah Williams, the FIH Hockey Pro League double headers against Argentina on 6 and 7 March will take on extra significance as Hockey Australia recognises and celebrates the role Indigenous Australians have had in Australian sporting success.
Both players have Indigenous heritage, and are two of a number of Indigenous athletes that have represented Australia in a range of sports over the years.
To celebrate Indigenous sporting heritage, both the Hockeyroos and the Kookaburras will be wearing a specially designed kit, The Seven Sisters and the Emu in the Sky. The designer is none other than double Olympian – in hockey and sprinting – Nova Peris, who is Brooke’s cousin. Nova won gold with Australia in the 1996 Olympic Games and then swapped to track to represent her country in the 2000 Games in Sydney.
Brooke Peris said it meant a great deal to her to be involved and to compete as an Indigenous Australian.
“This is really special and I’m extremely proud to be able to represent Indigenous people and have the opportunity to be part of this occasion,” says Brooke.
“I cherish every time I get to play for Australia, and if I can help to inspire other Indigenous people, whether it is to pick up a hockey stick or following any other pursuit in life while being proud of their heritage, it makes it all the more worthwhile.”
Nova Peris explains that her polo shirt design represents the ancient and traditional relationship the Indigenous people have with the stars and astronomy. The legend of the Emu and the Seven Sisters, told through the ages to generations of Indigenous children is all about bringing people together.
As well as the commemorative shirts, there will be a weekend-long programme of Indigenous themed activities. This includes a group of young indigenous players from the Cairns Aspire to be Deadly Programme – as reported in our first of six articles to mark International Women’s Day – taking part in a five-a-side game at half time of both Pro League matches.
“This is an opportunity for hockey in Australia to celebrate Indigenous players who have played for Australia over time,” said Hockey Australia CEO Matt Favier.
“It is our chance to say thank you and to acknowledge them, and more broadly to recognise and celebrate the role that Indigenous people play in Australian culture and our community, particularly through sport.
“Surprisingly we haven’t done something like this as a sport before despite our history which has seen talented Indigenous players such as Nova Peris, Des Abbott, Joel Carroll, Baeden Choppy and Lorelle Morrissey.
“We have some players of Indigenous heritage also playing now, so the timing is appropriate and we are thrilled that we are able to do it.”
Schedule of Australia v Argentina FIH Hockey Pro League matches
Friday 6 March
Australia women v Argentina women (6:00pm local)
Australia men v Argentina men (8:30pm local)
Saturday 7 March
Australia women v Argentina women (4:00pm local)
Australia men v Argentina men (6:30pm local)