Each year the National Museum of Australia and the National Australia Day Council host an exhibition of significant objects chosen by eight extraordinary 2020 Australian of the Year state and territory recipients, which tell us something about their lives, aspirations and experiences.
For this year’s exhibition, 2020 ACT Australian of the Year Katrina Fanning chose the Jillaroos jersey she wore during the first women’s international test match against New Zealand in 1995.
Her jersey is presented at the Museum as part of an extraordinary collection from this year’s batch of Australian of the Year finalists, including a ceramic dove, a statue of a Hawaiian God, and a pair of Antarctica hiking boots.
Each deeply personal and revealing item is accompanied by a moving story that gives the objects even more weight.
Ms Fanning is a pioneer of rugby league and women’s sport at large, also a mentor and proud Wiradjuri woman.
She tells Canberra Weekly the match and, by extension, the jersey represents a turning point for the recognition of women in the sport.
“There’s not a stitch of sponsorship on it because no one wanted it, so we paid for it all ourselves.
“It’s a nice symbol and reminder; it’s 25 years next year since that match, and now we had at the women’s international 9s at the end of the season the women being paid as much as the men.”
Now chairing the NRL’s Indigenous Council and a Raiders board member, Ms Fanning has provided advice to the code on developing pathways and participation.
“I like to think I’ve done more off the field than I ever did on it,” she says modestly.
Ms Fanning says she’s driven to give back due to how greatly beneficial the opportunity to play sport was for her.
“To see so many of our elite women doing that and more, getting more opportunities for more women, it’s just wonderful to see that legacy continue.
“What that does for little girls across the country, but also little boys, there’s boys now growing up knowing women play elite sport.
“It changes their view on gender issues dramatically, and I think over the next few generations that’s going to help us be a better society in general.”
The Australian of the Year Awards 2020 exhibition is on display at the National Museum of Australia until 16 February; nma.gov.au