Tennis Australia Press Release, December 30, 2021
The Australian Open will celebrate the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with the inaugural First Nations Day, to be held on Wednesday 19 January 2022.
Wiradjuri woman and seven-time Grand Slam champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley is looking forward to introducing Indigenous culture to tennis fans.
“I am so excited to be involved in First Nations Day at the Australian Open,” Evonne Goolagong Cawley said.
“Through tennis I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had so many wonderful experiences, which in turn has given me the opportunity to give back to the community. My passion is to help young Indigenous people and to make education a priority for them, a project we’ve been working on through my Foundation for many years.
“To now have the chance to showcase our rich Aboriginal culture and the achievements of many of our people, here at the Australian Open, brings together everything that’s so important to me. It’s going to be a very special day.”
Goolagong Cawley will join respected Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Joy Murphy AO to launch First Nations Day with a Koorie Heritage Cultural Walk around the Melbourne Park precinct.
Yolngu man and musician and performer, Danzal James Baker OAM, known as Baker Boy is expected to serve up one of the highlights of the day with a special performance at Rod Laver Arena prior to the evening session.
The many activities designed for First Nations Day include:
- Traditional Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony
- Live art created by internationally renowned artist and performer Stan ‘Yarra’ Yarramunua
- Indigenous art installations across the site
- First Nations children for all pre-match coin-toss on RLA and MCA
- Didgeridoo performances from Wamba Wamba man Uncle Ron Murray
- Australian Open tickets on First Nations Day to feature Indigenous design
- ‘Culture on Court’ in partnership with Buldau Yioohgen, Anglicare Victoria’s Indigenous Youth Leadership Academy
The First Nations theme will also be on show throughout the entire tournament, with Indigenous chef Nornie Bero from Fed Square’s Mabu Mabu restaurant presenting a unique dining experience at the AO, highlighting native ingredients.
Gubbi Gubbi artist Maggie-Jean Douglas, winner of the prestigious 2021 National NAIDOC Week poster competition with her artwork Care for Country, has created two Indigenous artworks especially for the Australian Open.
Themed around people gathering and returning to the land, and developed in consultation with Aunty Joy to ensure the local Wurundjeri people are appropriately acknowledged, Maggie-Jean’s designs are featured in an exclusive AO First Nations merchandise range and around the precinct. Proceeds will go towards Indigenous tennis programs supported by the Australian Tennis Foundation.
“Each year we strive to make our sport and the AO even more inclusive of everyone in our community, to truly be Open for All,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“We are thrilled to launch the inaugural First Nations Day at the Australian Open in 2022 and recognise the many different aspects of First Nations culture. Celebrating our Indigenous community, raising awareness and showcasing the history of our nation and land will be a big part of this special day.”
A new Indigenous program has also been introduced into the AO Ballkid program, and Indigenous ballkids will be highlighted on First Nations Day.
First Nations Day will be promoted across all Australian Open platforms, including all screens onsite and players will receive gifts inspired by local Indigenous communities. Melbourne Summer Set trophies will also promote collaborations with First Nations artists.