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Queenscliff celebrates Australia's first Indigenous cricketers

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Queenscliff’s significance in the 154-year-old story of the Australian Aboriginal cricket team will be officially recognised this weekend when the Borough of Queenscliffe is presented with a leather-bound commemorative message book.

Saturday’s B Grade cricket fixture between Queenscliff and Anglesea at Queenscliff Recreation Reserve will take on added meaning, with the teams to compete for the Mullagh Wills Foundation Trophy. A ceremony will take place prior to the match, where the message book will be presented to Queenscliffe Mayor Cr Ross Ebbels alongside Wotjobaluk Elder Richard Kennedy.

“Queenscliffe’s Aboriginal history is a significant part of what makes this community such a special place,” said Mayor Ebbels. “We’re delighted to welcome Richard Kennedy to help us commemorate an important step in the long road towards reconciliation that happened here in the Borough.”

Mr Kennedy, whose great-great-grandfather was of a member of the original Aboriginal cricket team, penned a bilingual Welcome to Country in English and Wergaia that is inscribed in the book. The book itself has journeyed to England and then across Australia over the last four years, making its final stop at Queenscliff before it finds a home at the Johnny Mullagh Cricket Museum in Harrow, Victoria.

“My great-great-grandfather Yangendyinanyuk (dik-a-dik) was a member of the team,” said Mr Kennedy. “Not only did this team’s tour present an opportunity for the players to test their skills against some of the best cricketers in the world, it allowed them to share and promote their culture to an international audience.”

The Queenscliff township’s role in the story of the Indigenous team is pivotal, as it was from there where the squad departed in October 1867 for its 1868 tour of England. Having been prevented by the Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines to leave Victoria, the trip from Geelong to Queenscliff was disguised as a day’s fishing. The team then boarded the Rangatira at Queenscliff, Sydney-bound, before then travelling to England where they played a mammoth 47-match tour over six months.

The Mullagh Wills Foundation is named after the Aboriginal side’s star player Johnny Mullagh (born Unaarrimin) and coach Tom Wills, and was formed to promote and recognise the tremendous achievements of the team in the late 1860s.

Members of the public are invited to watch the presentation and the subsequent match. Ceremonies begin at 12:25pm, Saturday 29 February at the Queenscliff Sports Club. Cricket begins at 1:30pm.