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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Paying tribute to Australia’s first Aboriginal cricket team

Aussie country singer Matt Scullion has livestreamed his new single, 1868, just in time for NAIDOC Week, 8-15 November.

1868 tells the story of the nation’s first Aboriginal cricket team, which travelled to England on Australia’s earliest organised sporting tour.

The team played 47 matches against English sides between May and October of 1868, hence the song’s title.

Scullion said he was inspired from the moment he first heard of this untold piece of Australian history.

“I was first told the story by cricketing legend Len Pascoe and was amazed that I’d never heard the story before,” he said.

“And, as I hung the phone up, I knew that I had to write a song about their experiences.”

Richard Kennedy, the great-great-grandson of the team’s own Yangendyinanyuk, says he’s pleased with Scullion’s efforts to shine a light on this forgotten story.

“It’s great to hear the first song about such an important part of Australia’s untold history and its recognition of our ancestors for their achievements,” Kennedy said.

Cricket Australia shares this feeling, describing 1868 as a song that can help spread the story far and wide.

“It’s an incredible way to share and celebrate the journey of the 1868 Aboriginal XI cricket team – a backbone of Australian cricket,” a Cricket Australia spokesperson said.

“The story is one of strength, resilience and triumph in a time of hardship and struggle.”

Award-winning producer Shane Nicholson helped in the song’s production, and the video clip was shot by Scullion and his wife Sharon.

Originally, they hoped to film scenes of Victoria, across Jardwadajali, Wotjaboluky and Gunditjmara country, where the cricketers came from.

Australian country music singer Matt Scullion.

However, they settled for a more local spot because of COVID-19.

“It was a wonderful learning experience and one we’ll be doing a lot more of,” Scullion said.

“We chose Glen Elgin as the backdrop because of its similarities and, though it’s not the same, we hope we did the beautiful Victorian landscape justice.”

In addition to the natural scenery, the video also features original photos and newspaper clippings from 1868.

Once COVID-19 restrictions ease further, Scullion and Cricket Australia hope to organise a live performance in front of cricket fans.

In the meantime, he will bring his Swag-A-Long tour to the Hunter Region, appearing at Barrington Steps Bush Camp on Saturday 21 November.

Visit Scullion’s website for more information.

This year’s NAIDOC Week will be celebrated from Sunday 8 to 15 November.

Gemma Ferguson

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