As the first game of the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) season approached this year, the University of Canberra Capitals (UC Caps) wanted to bring something special for the Indigenous round. In collaboration with the Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (TOAC), the team designed a new jersey that represents their place in the wider community.
Helping them bring this vision to reality were Richard Allan, his father Richie, and Auntie Violet of the Ngunnawal people. The idea came through discussions in the educational sessions held for the team to form a greater understanding of the landscape they live and play for in the WNBL.
Retaining an open channel of communication and expertise with the UC Caps is TOAC’s Cultural Director and emerging Ngunnawal knowledge holder, Richard Allan. The relationship began when the team was looking for help on its reconciliation journey.
“Richie’s a very highly regarded knowledge holder in Canberra because our family is all Ngunnawal. Auntie Violet is my dad’s mum, so we obviously know each other very well and tend to bounce off each other as we work,” said Richard.
While Auntie Violet is the only one allowed to educate on women’s business, Richie, as a knowledge holder and emerging Elder, guides much of the session’s agenda.
“Much of the discussions we’ve had with the UC Caps revolve around what traditions our people do on this landscape, which have been carried from the dreamtime into the present. We also take the opportunity to educate them on songlines and how the land has been used in the past.”
Gemma Potter is in her fifth season with the UC Caps, in addition to being a member of the national women’s basketball team. She says the team really came together to create this new design.
“We met with Richard after last season and just acknowledged that we wanted to have a greater meaning behind the jersey that was individual to us as a team but also related to the culture and history of the region. It’s something that I take great pride in as a team and an organisation. We’re trying to move away from it just being a token round in that one week and following it on throughout the whole season.
“Our home and away uniforms do have a piece of that artwork, so we’re still always connected, and the clubs have also been working around how we can integrate Indigenous things into all of our home games, which has been awesome to see.”
Richard says the main part of the jersey’s design is the nine circles, which represent the championships won by the UC Caps in the past. In each of the circles are patterns found on Ngunnawal land and representations of activities, like weaving, which is traditionally women’s business and is a symbol of the team’s connection with each other.
You can also find little ‘U’s on the jersey symbolising women in pink and purple, colours of strength and healing in numbers on Ngunnawal land. They’re positioned around the circles to show the women coming together as a community. In the background, the white lines are war paint used by the Ngunnawal people in times of conflict and for dancing.
At the centre of the design is a wedge-tailed eagle’s footprints walking up the jersey, the Ngunnawal people’s animal totem.
To see the UC Caps – and the Indigenous kit – in action, get to the opening round of the WNBL season against the Adelaide Lightning this Sunday (5 November) at the National Convention Centre. Tickets are available from the WNBL.