A country where all kids have equal opportunity for their dreams
In the month before State of Origin went west, Preston Campbell went north.
He travelled to the Pilbara region in Western Australia, where some of the state's rugby league players travelled eight hours to play a few games of rugby league and listen to his mental health workshops with the NRL State of Mind program which hopes to reduce a spike in suicide levels. The governing body planned to reach every rugby league club in the state.
Afterwards, Campbell went to Alice Springs where he worked with former prison inmates trying to transition back into the community. The NRL is only a part of his community work, which is primarily backed by his own Preston Campbell Foundation to advance the cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Through it all he's watched and listen intently to the campaign for indigenous Australians to have a voice in the constitution two years on from the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The man who inspired the All-Stars concept writes it is time for Australia to be a country where "all kids have equal opportunity to chase their dreams".
Mr Campbell said,
“I recently had the privilege of attending a workshop on the Uluru Statement from the Heart delivered by Professor Megan Davis (also an Australian Rugby League Commission director).
In my recent travels around our beautiful shared land I have had the opportunity to reflect on the statement and the voices it represents.
It is a statement that carries the voices of the past and the present and speaks to the future dreams and hopes of a younger generation of all Australians.
In the NRL Indigenous Round, I remembered the story of Frank "Big Shot" Fisher from Cherbourg.
Frank was recognised in the ARL Indigenous Team of the Century but was denied the choice to take up an opportunity to play in Great Britain in the 1930s by the Aboriginal Protector at the time.
He would have been amazed if he had lived to see his granddaughter, Cathy Freeman, bring the country together in winning a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
The same country that voted overwhelmingly in the 1967 constitutional referendum to include First Nations people in the census and pass specific legislation to address their needs.
The same country that wept with the surviving members of the stolen generation in 2008 as they listened to the Prime Minister issue an apology in parliament for their pain and loss.
The same country that has the opportunity to support the Uluru Statement for constitutional recognition and a true voice for First Nations people in our country’s future and the laws and policies that are made about them.
As important as the voices represented in the Statement are my true inspiration has come from the responses of a generation still to reach voting age.
They include young indigenous school students who attended the recent "Deadly Ways" camp at the University of South Queensland.
They combined in a workshop that reimaged the Uluru Statement in a voice that represented their generation and their respect for elders while making a strong commitment to their culture and their people in the future.
They were a group of aspiring dentists, engineers, teachers, scientists and community leaders of the future.
All they wanted was an equal say and a level playing field for the indigenous kids following them.
I was equally inspired by Aiden Barr, a 12-year-old non-indigenous kid on the Gold Coast who, inspired by his Aboriginal teacher, gained the support of his rugby league club and others to raise over $10,000 for indigenous literacy by participating in their own Indigenous Round.
As impressive as this was, it was his words that impacted on me more.
Like the "Deadly Ways" group, it was a voice of the future.
A voice from the heart.
When speaking of his vision for our shared home, he simply said: "A country where all kids have the equal opportunity to chase their dreams."
The Australia we want for all our kids.”
By Preston Campbell. This article first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 23, 2019