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Talking to Jim Krakouer on the phone, his voice is little more than a warm mumble, yet his childhood memories are vivid and clear as he recounts his beginnings on an Aboriginal reserve near Bunbury, in a tin shed with no water, no power.

Krakouer says his parents put in “a mighty effort” – Dad as a shearer and Mum raising 13 children – but the only thing that gave him joy was football. “Skins and shirts. A good old game of rough and tumble. Where we come from, you had to really try hard, fight hard, struggle hard,” Krakouer says. “Off the field, I used to go into my shell. But out there, you felt confident. Footy was a way of getting on level ground with the rest of the world.”

That was no mean feat. The Stolen Generations have their roots in Noongar territory. Ground zero for widespread Aboriginal child removal was the appointment of Auber Octavius Neville as Chief Protector of the Aborigines in Western Australia in 1915. Entire towns were stripped of their Indigenous population, who were sent to settlements and missions. Perth was declared a prohibited area for Aboriginal people between 1927 and 1954, and Noongars required a permit to enter the city.

Gorman often asks his students to name a few Indigenous people. They invariably list footballers. Then he asks for names not associated with sport. Someone might say actor Ernie Dingo, painter Albert Namatjira or singer Jessica Mauboy. The politically aware know Pat Dodson, but that’s it. And that’s why football is so important.

“They still feel like they’re in a state of siege here,” Gorman says. “The form of the war has changed, but you still have a dispossessed people who live in a society not of their making. When you hear the story of a footy player like Jimmy Krakouer, you’re weaving his turbulent career into a socio-political tapestry, and that’s powerful. It’s a common language. Think about it. What would you know about Aboriginal people without footy?”

Source : https://www.smh.com.au/interactive/2016/the-noongar-warriors/

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