As an enthusiastic “soccer mum” to three godsons, Selina Walker knows how football can help communities take a step in the reconciliation journey.
Selina, who has been a volunteer at Canberra football club Tuggeranong United for the past four years, helped organise Canberra’s first indigenous junior football team, the Koori Kangaroos, to play at the 2019 McDonald’s Kanga Cup.
As she reflected during National Reconciliation Week, Selina said having a representative team at the biggest youth football tournament in the Southern Hemisphere was a “massive step” on the nation’s reconciliation journey.
“The Koori Kangaroos was an acknowledgment that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids can contribute to a world-wide event,” Selina said. “For these kids, it is like the Olympics.
“Aboriginal people are so proud to play for their culture, so to start that at a junior level boosted their confidence and self-esteem.
“It wasn’t an all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander team so we had non-Indigenous kids playing, which was a powerful, visual reminder that we are in this together.
“It is not about colour. It is about a passion for football.”
The side didn’t win a game during the tournament and didn’t score a goal until their last game, but for Selina and the team, the result was bigger than the scoreline.
“It was about being there, being present and representing our culture in front of teams from across the world,” Selina said.
“The kids didn’t mind about the score. They just wanted to play for their culture.”
As a proud Aboriginal woman, National Reconciliation Week is an emotional one for Selina.
“My grandmother is Aunty Agnes Shea, who is one of the most senior Ngunnawal elders here in the ACT,” Selina shared.
“She has been on this reconciliation journey for many, many years so I am following in her footsteps.
“There is more recognition now than ever before and we are in a much better place than when my dad was growing up or my grandmother.
“Over the years, I have seen the recognition of reconciliation grow. It has been a good journey and I am excited to continue it.”
Selina believes that football has an important role to play in reconciliation across the nation.
“I believe reconciliation is on everybody’s radar,” she said. “People want to be involved and it all starts with a simple conversation.
“That is reconciliation in a nutshell.”