The Middle Stump
On Ngunnawal land in the Australian Capital Territory, a new tradition for cricket matches has begun.
As a symbol of Reconciliation, the middle stump has been painted by young Ngunnawal artist, Shaenice Allan, with traditional Aboriginal design and colour scheme.
Bill Turner is Secretary of the Canberra City Cricket Club, the first grass roots team in Australia to use these special stumps.
‘The Aboriginal Artwork Middle Stump Initiative is the idea of Noongar man, Clinton Dann,’ Bill said.
‘Clint played over 100 games of first class cricket in Perth and opened the batting against New Zealand in the 2001 Prime Minister’s XI.’
‘The idea of painting the middle stump with local Indigenous art came to him a couple of years ago. The stump stands for Reconciliation and every time it is driven into the ground, it is an Acknowledgement of Country.’
‘Clint also sees there are very few Indigenous Australians playing cricket and would like to see the initiative encourage more Aboriginal children to play our national sport.’
A team in the Canberra Sunday Social competition also uses the stumps. Teams in the Perth Swan Cricket Association competition have adopted the practice, using stumps painted by a local Noongar artist.
‘At this stage, only the Canberra City Cricket Club is using the stumps in our competition. The hope is other clubs get on-board and we see the growth of the initiative across our competition and into ACT Cricket and beyond,’ Bill said.
The stumps were first used in October 2019. The competing teams gathered on both sides of the pitch where a formal Acknowledgement of Country, written by Bill*, was made by a team member, after which the middle stumps were driven into the pitch.
‘In subsequent home matches, we haven’t done anything specific, rather allowing the driving in of the stumps to stand as Acknowledgement and answering questions from interested opposition players,’ Bill said.
‘We have had overwhelming support from our players. People are embracing this idea and love the symbolism and message of Reconciliation inherent in the stumps.’
One member of Bill’s club, an Englishman, is father of two Indigenous boys.
‘He wants to make sure his sons stay connected with their traditional culture and was excited when we announced our participation on Facebook,’ Bill said.
Clint Dann has circulated Bill’s Acknowledgement for use by other clubs who take up the practice.
*Acknowledgement of Country and Launch of the Middle Stump Initiative - Canberra City Cricket Club October 2019
Today we acknowledge we are playing our cricket on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people and we pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We thank them for their stewardship of the country on which we now live and play.
We acknowledge any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders present.
Today, we make our acknowledgement enduring and visible to those we play with and against. Our stumps, painted by Ngunnawal hands with Ngunnawal stories, are driven into Ngunnawal soil. They stand for Acknowledgement of Country and they stand for Reconciliation.
More importantly, they say to all First People of the oldest continuous cultures on earth come and play the great game of cricket with us. Australia’s first touring side to England was a team of Aboriginal players. These players were the first organised group of Australian sports people ever to tour overseas. Yet, we tend to mark Australian cricket history with the tour of 1877 when the legend of the Ashes was created.
Since then, very few Indigenous players have played in Australia’s first Eleven’s. For the men’s team, Jason Gillespie is the most recent and memorable, while Ash Gardner is currently plying her trade in the women’s team. Other than that, Wikipedia only lists eight other indigenous players of note, 5 men and 3 women.
We hope by driving our stumps into Ngunnawal country, we will play some small part in encouraging the next Jason Gillespie or Ash Gardner to take up the willow or the leather.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge Clint Dann, a Noongar Man from Perth and former first grade cricketer, whose created the Aboriginal Artworks Middle Stump Initiative, and Shaenice Allan, the Ngunnawal artist who painted our stumps.