FEATURE: Indigenous identity in the heart of Ella territory

Wed, 10/03/2021, 07:35 pm
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Wallaroo's fullback Lori Cramer reflects during her time with the Queensland Women's program | RUGBYcomau/Stu Walmsley

WHEN Wallaroos fullback Lori Cramer fired off 50 emails to find a job last year she never expected it would reinforce her Indigenous identity in the heart of Ella territory.

No one needed to tell Cramer to harden up when she was out of work after losing her job as a concreter in Brisbane last year because of COVID-19 cuts.

She still packed her Mitsubishi Triton and headed to Sydney to further her rugby career.

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That’s when she started firing off those emails to find work to pay some bills in a sport she plays for love not money.

“I was literally emailing everyone in the middle of a pandemic to get a job,” Cramer said from camp with the Wallaroos in Canberra.

“It was difficult but I did get a call to come in as a teacher aide at Matraville Sports High.”

Coming from interstate, she had no idea of the school’s proud history until she walked through the doors into a giant photo collage of the school’s famous students.

 

 

The Ella brothers, Mark, Glen and Gary, put the school on the map in the late 1970s and early ‘80s when the Aboriginal brothers all played for the Wallabies.

Sister Marcia was the first Indigenous Australian to play netball for Australia.

Eddie Jones, Russell Fairfax, Lloyd Walker and David Knox were other notable rugby products while Josh Addo-Carr, Adam Reynolds, Dylan Walker and others have excelled in the NRL.

Cramer, 28, is now on full-time at the school as an athlete wellbeing officer which taps her background in youth work. She’s loving it.

“I just never knew the history. I coach footy there now and I’m the bus driver as well,” Cramer said.

“There’s a large number of Indigenous kids at the school and so many are freaks when it comes to natural talent to do things that you don’t see in older, more robotic players.

“I work with some girls who just play on their instincts. They love the contact.”

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Embracing her work with Indigenous students has been a positive at a time when she is still learning about her own Indigenous identity.

“I’m working on my own identity and exploring my culture,” Cramer said.

“It’s happening a bit later in life but dad’s from Taroom and the ancestry is the Yiman people.”

Cramer would dearly love to be in the first women’s rugby team to wear an Indigenous jersey. Australia’s Super Rugby AU sides have unveiled unique jerseys to mark the inaugural First Nations Round.

The educational and awareness sessions held across Australia are just as important in this week of recognition and celebration. 

For back-up Reds halfback Moses Sorovi, his pride is magnified by the special jerseys being worn across the competition.

 

 

“It means a lot with the whole of Super Rugby AU getting involved with designs by Indigenous artists,” Sorovi said.

“Our jersey design (by QRU Future Indigenous Leaders Program student Delphine Cecil) is all about connection back to family and friends after the journey she’s been on.

“One of our focus points for Saturday’s game against the Brumbies is all about connection, being connected with each other on and off the field, so it works perfectly.”

Sorovi is from tiny Yam Island in the Torres Strait. He learnt his rugby boarding at St Peters Lutheran College in Brisbane because only league was played on the island.

The Brumbies will wear a jersey designed by Ngunnawal man Budda Connors.

There is more representation of players with Indigenous heritage in Super Rugby through the likes of Andy Muirhead (Brumbies) and Triston Reilly (Waratahs) but there is so much scope for more.

Sharp-stepping fullback Floyd Aubrey is finding his way in the Reds Academy, Maurice Longbottom is a riveting entertainer for the Aussie Sevens side and former Rebels halfback Harrison Goddard is in the US for now with the LA Giltinis.

In Wallaroos camp, Cramer, Mahalia Murphy, Gabby Petersen, Lillyann Mason and Grace Kemp all have Indigenous heritage.

As one of the 14 First Nations players to represent the Wallabies, Western Force Head of Rugby Matt Hodgson is delighted to see the Nyoongar culture celebrated in the jersey to be worn against the Melbourne Rebels on Friday night.

The jersey, designed by renowned Nyoongar artist Peter John Farmer II, features the logo of Generation One which is an initiative of Minderoo Foundation that advocates for Indigenous employment opportunities. 

 

 

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