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Embracing culture: The story of our 2021 Indigenous Range

The Canberra Raiders have officially launched their 2021 Indigenous Jersey which will be worn for the first time against the Sydney Roosters in Indigenous round.

The jersey was designed by artist Rayne Huddleston, a Ngandi and Nyiyaparli man from Urulah Cultural Art, and was based on initial concepts from Justine Brown, a Ngunnawal woman from Mulleun Dreaming, and students in the NRL School to Work program at Queanbeyan High School.

L-R: Justine Brown, Tyrese Cocks, Rayne Huddleston
L-R: Justine Brown, Tyrese Cocks, Rayne Huddleston

The design focuses on two totems that are displayed on the jerseys, run out tees and hoodies.

The wedge-tailed eagle (Mulleun) represents the Ngunnawal people who are the Indigenous people of the Canberra region and its first inhabitants. It also depicts the Ngunnawal Dreamtime story of Mulleun.

The wedge-tail eagle represents the Ngunnawal people
The wedge-tail eagle represents the Ngunnawal people

The goanna represents the people of the Wiradjuri nation which is the largest Indigenous Nation within NSW. The goanna totem represents the Raiders’ broader regional connections and Jack Wighton’s mob.

The goanna represents Jack Wighton's mob, the Wiradjuri Nation
The goanna represents Jack Wighton's mob, the Wiradjuri Nation

As a local Ngunnawal woman, Justine Brown was pleased to share the story of the wedge-tailed eagle on the design and was blown away when she first saw it on the jersey.

“I was quite blown away,” Brown said. “I was very overwhelmed and proud because I know how proud our boys are when they’re on that field.

“To see them wearing that shirt, I think they will embrace that and feel more empowered and connected to the land that they meet on and play on.”

Artist Rayne Huddleston said that the process of creating the jersey was one that he was very proud of not only because of the results but the journey itself.

“It’s an awesome opportunity, I feel very honoured,” Huddleston said. “My grandfather and a lot of people in my family will be very proud and they go for the Canberra Raiders as well.”

Rayne’s artistic style originates from his maternal grandfather (Ngandi/Ngukkar mob) and the cross-hatching which is seen within the two totems comes from Burrunju City, East Arnhem Land, a sacred site and original place of the Ngukurr people.

Artist Rayne Huddleston pictured with his designs
Artist Rayne Huddleston pictured with his designs

Throughout the process, Rayne enjoyed bringing the concepts to life but most importantly focused on keeping the tradition of Indigenous artwork alive by sharing his skills with the students in the School to Work program.

“To see kids get involved with painting, that’s what I love,” Huddleston said. “That’s my goal, to keep culture alive and keep our tradition going. When young people are doing it especially young boys and girls, I find it amazing.”

Tyrese Cocks was one of the School to Work students that was involved in creating the initial designs and during the artistic process learned a lot about his culture.

“That was definitely really big because then I finally realised who my actual tribe was,” Cocks said. “I went back through all my culture and spoke to my Nan and found out where my culture was actually from.”

After discovering he was a Kamilaroi man, Tyrese and his family are extremely proud to have their culture and artwork shown across Australia on the Raiders jersey.

Also featured within the artwork are the stars, the Milky Way and the Gibraltar Rocks (Jedbinbilla) which are located in the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve on the edge of the ACT. These elements also depict the Dreamtime story of Mulleun.

The footprints represent the students in the School to Work program as they progress through school before flying into the real world.

Wiradjuri man Jack Wighton is looking forward to wearing the jersey later this month alongside his teammates.

L to R: Sebastian Kris (Mabuiag & Saibai - Torres Strait Islands), Ryan James (Bundjalung), Jack Wighton (Wiradjuri), Xavier Savage ( Birri Gubba &  Gunggandji - Indigenous  and Erub -Torres Strait Islands)
L to R: Sebastian Kris (Mabuiag & Saibai - Torres Strait Islands), Ryan James (Bundjalung), Jack Wighton (Wiradjuri), Xavier Savage ( Birri Gubba & Gunggandji - Indigenous and Erub -Torres Strait Islands)

“Indigenous Round means a lot,” Wighton said. “It means representing the young kids, and also representing myself and my family and trying to do them proud.

“There’s a lot of thought gone into the process of this jersey and all the boys are behind it and have gotten an explanation to what it means. I can’t wait to wear it on the night.”

2021 Indigenous Jersey Revealed

The Canberra Raiders will also wear the Indigenous jersey in round 16 against the Gold Coast Titans as part of the NAIDOC Week celebrations that will take place at GIO Stadium.

The Raiders 2021 Indigenous Range is available to purchase at raidersshop.com.au.