The Melbourne Vixens’ 2023 First Nations dress has been revealed ahead of the upcoming Suncorp Super Netball First Nations Round.
Written by Amelia Barnes
The artwork for this year’s First Nations dress, to be worn by the Vixens playing group in Rounds 11 and 12, was created by artist Rebecca Atkinson – a Moiradu woman from the Bangerang Nation from her father’s side, and Kerrupmara woman from the Gunditjmara Nation on her mother’s.
Atkinson was taught to paint when she was eight years old by her father, Kevin Atkinson Jnr. She paints in a style specific to Bangerang people (covering north-east Victoria including Shepparton, where Atkinson resides) and other Koorie artists that features line work such as cross hatching and traditional x-ray art. “That’s how we tell our stories,” said Atkinson.
In creating her artwork for the dress, Atkinson drew on her personal experiences as a netball player and fan to highlight themes of fearlessness, resilience, and togetherness applicable to both the Melbourne Vixens and First Nations people.
Fearlessness is portrayed on the inner dress design, comprising seven circles representing each of the players as they move and compete on court. The design attached to the circles symbolises the remaining athletes who play an equally important role supporting from the sidelines.
Resilience is reflected in the wavy, pink-coloured lines reminiscent of a rollercoaster ride. Atkinson noted that First Nations people show resilience everyday as they face ongoing challenges and adversity due to colonisation.
Togetherness is symbolised by the large outer circles that represent the Vixens’ coaches, staff, and fans. Regardless of their role, everyone plays a part in ensuring the team is successful on and off the court.
“Because I've had that netball background, I know there’s a lot that goes into a team – it's not just the seven players on the court,” said Atkinson.
In addition to the official playing dress, Atkinson’s artwork will appear on a Melbourne Vixens merchandise range (available for sale soon, online and at game day) including warmup tops, netballs, drink bottles, and pennant flags.
100 per cent of the profits from merchandise and apparel sales will go towards Netball Victoria’s First Nations Pathway Program, which works to ensure greater access for Victoria’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to participate in netball.
Atkinson says the contribution of royalties to the First Nations Pathway Program attracted her to designing the dress. “That’s the best part about it … I thought that was a really good incentive.”
Atkinson will be at John Cain Arena on Saturday 28 May to see her design in action during the round celebrating First Nations peoples and cultures. She says initiatives such as First Nations rounds in sport are important for recognising the ongoing hardships of Indigenous people and showcasing their rich culture.
“I think it’s the best … This is teaching the next generation about who we are. It’s going to eliminate a lot of profiling; it's going to show a lot more acceptance of who we are; and more people are going to want to learn about who we are as First Nations people,” said Atkinson.
As a result of sporting initiatives, Atkinson hopes more people discover the history of what’s in their own backyard, such as the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape on Gunditjmara Country – one of the world’s most extensive and oldest aquaculture systems and inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Atkinson was selected as the Melbourne Vixens’ 2023 First Nations dress artist after applying to the club’s annual artist callout. The opportunity to design the dress is open to any Vixens fan who identifies as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and currently resides in Victoria. The successful artist receives a fee for the artwork licence to appear on the official dress worn by the players during the SSN First Nations Round.
In 2023 the round coincides with National Reconciliation Week. It is split over Rounds 11 (27-28 May) and 12 (3-4 June) to enable all SSN clubs to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in front of their home crowds.
A callout for artist applications to design the 2024 Melbourne Vixens First Nations dress will be promoted in the coming months
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