A junior soccer team from the Bundaberg region is embracing First Nations names to acknowledge and connect with local Indigenous culture.
- Bargara Football Club has adopted First Nations names for its team
- Traditional Owners say this will help the kids learn about culture from a young age
- The local Indigenous language is Taribelang Bunda
On a sporting oval surrounded by palm trees and overlooking the blue ocean, a group of under 5s burn off their post-school energy by kicking soccer balls.
The children are members of the Bargara Football Club and their teams now go by the names of Mee’barr meaning ‘salt water turtle’, and Bar’aggi meaning ‘warrior’ in the local Indigenous language, Taribelang Bunda.
Club representative Kath Campbell said such a simple gesture would have a big impact.
“It was suggested we approach our Traditional Owners and come up with some names that reflected Bargara Football Club and the beautiful land here,” Ms Campbell said.
“They were able to work with us and come up with some appropriate names that reflected our values, as well as the traditional lands on which we play.
“At first it was a mouthful for under 5s, but they have really embraced them, so we are proud of them — it’s had a huge impact.”
Name helps with cultural education
The club committee decided introducing First Nations names to its entry level teams was a positive way to educate children as they progressed through the years.
A workshop with Taribelang Bunda leader Byron Bunda-Broome, who helped develop the names, was hosted and shared stories of culture and land with the Mee’barr and Bar’aggi players.
Ms Campbell believed while the children learned about culture so too would their parents and guardians.
“We look forward to doing this every year as we induce our under 5s,” she said.
“Just growing that learning from our children right through to adults—both of us learning alongside each other.
“It’s about not taking this journey too fast, take it slow, learning as parents, learning as a community with our traditional owners.”
Precious language almost lost
Byron Bunda-Broome is a Taribelang man who helped the club develop the First Nation names.
He was overjoyed the club approached the Taribelang Aboriginal Corporation for its assistance.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” Mr Bunda-Broome said.
“When you have an Aboriginal organization and a white organization coming together, that’s reconciliation in action.
“I feel so proud to bring my old language, history and lingo back up for the white people to use. This is how we keep our culture alive.”
Many First Nation languages almost became extinct due to restrictions on being spoken and Mr Bunda-Broome said it had taken hard work to prevent them from being lost.
He was also excited to share stories of Mon Repos beach with a new generation learning the vital role it played with First Nations people.
“It goes way back into our Dreamtime, where the Taribelang Bunda people knew when the turtles were coming,” Mr Bunda-Broome said.
“We were the protectors of the land and when they came down, we would help them go back to sea.
“Not only was it for the turtles, but it was a sacred site for our young men to be initiated. So, when the turtles came about it was a time for our young ones to step up and children to become a man.”
More Australian teams could embrace First Nation names
While Mr Bunda-Broome hoped more sporting clubs would look at using First Language names, he stressed it was important to work with the local Indigenous people and elders.
“The turtle is one of our totems and now it’s one of the football club’s totems too,” Mr Bunda-Broome said.
“They’re our little turtle warriors and they are just starting off and they grow and become big turtles and go off into the world.
“They have got a little Dreamtime behind their story too.”
I hoped the concept would expand.
“We should see more of it in Australia,” Mr Bunda-Broome said.
“It brightens the Aboriginal culture and history and it brightens the white man to engage with us and closing the gap and understand each other better.
“If we understand each other better our children can live happier.”