Indigenous Eels Connect to Culture

Nine Dyldam Parramatta Eels players travelled to the Gold Coast hinterland at the end of November for a two-day NRL-supported cultural program in Aratula, west of Beaudesert.

Halfback Luke Kelly and promising juniors Michael Doolan, Troy Dargan, Tyrell Fuimaono, Bevan French, Travis Turnbull, Ethan Parry, Joshua Curran and Hayden Loughery joined Gold Coast Titans players for the program, that focussed on deepening their personal connection to culture away from the comforts of home, with no electricity or running water.

The Blue and Gold group, all with Aboriginal heritage, shared their stories in a yarning circle led by Indigenous psychologist Clinton Schultz, supported by internationally renowned artist, speaker and performer Jeremy Donovan, and overseen by one of Australia’s most respected traditional healers, Uncle Harold Tayley.

Former Titan Preston Campbell also joined the group for the two-day group, as they cooked in the traditional underground Kup Murri ceremony and worked together to build a Djila Warri from saplings, an igloo-style structure that is filled with hot volcanic rock to create steam. The use of ritual and song in the Djila Warri has been practiced in Far North Queensland for thousands of years, to create a safe environment for the young men on the trip to self-reflect, share their scars and welcome healing.

“It’s really about engaging the thought process around how do these young men connect to their aboriginal identity,” Donovan said.

“And then how is that going to serve them in their own life personally, but also how does it serve them on the footy field. Looking beyond that, how do you carry that culture with you forever so that it continues to grow?”