Historic "First Welcome" to First Nations of the Commonwealth at Gold Coast 2018
On 12 March 2017, at the Commencement Ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Queen's Baton Relay, which took place at Buckingham Palace in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, the only speech came from Ted Williams, an Elder from the Yugambeh Language Group. Alongside well-respected Yugambeh Elder Patricia O'Connor, he delivered an invitation to First Nations people of the Commonwealth to come to Yugambeh land for the XXI Commonwealth Games the following year. That invitation came full circle yesterday with a unique and historic welcome event on the Gold Coast to Commonwealth Games Association members.
Chief Ava Hill, Mohawk, Wolf Clan, Chief of the 56th Elected Council of the Six Nations of the Grand River, said: “We are delighted to have travelled from Canada to be here in Australia for the Yabru First Nations Welcome Ceremony at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, taking place as part of the organisers’ Reconciliation Action Plan.
This complements the work we do in Canada, including as First Nations Representative for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. We passionately believe that major sporting events can and must be an important platform for culture, identity and language, empowering our youth with historical awareness and helping them to sustain knowledge of their culture and traditions.”
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) Chairman, Peter Beattie AC said the ‘Yabru’ is a ‘first welcome’ to the nation by the Yugambeh Language Group, the traditional owners of the land on which the Games will be held.
“The event symbolises a coming together as one of members of the Commonwealth of Nations with a traditional welcome and a Yugambeh cultural performance followed by an exchange from several of the participating nations and territories,” Mr Beattie said.
“This is a very special occasion and one that has never been held before in association with the Commonwealth Games. We are very proud that we are the very first event to deliver a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and this demonstrates a further commitment to cultural awareness across the Commonwealth."
Commonwealth Games Federation President, Louise Martin CBE said: “Days before the Opening Ceremony, history has already been made as the local indigenous community welcomes many First Nations representatives from around the Commonwealth for the first time at a Commonwealth Games.
“Building on the experiences and achievements of the Reconciliation Action Plan here on the Gold Coast, we must seize the opportunity to begin a wider conversation about moving towards Indigenous Reconciliation through Sport; and developing clear benchmarks for Major Sporting Events which take place on First Nations land.
“I would like to formally extend my heartfelt thanks to the Yugambeh Language Group for everything they have done to contribute to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.”
Yabru guests were invited to experience Dreamworld’s Corroboree and a traditional kapmauri – traditional Torres Strait Island cooking, exchange stories and meet other country representatives of the Commonwealth Games.