Western Australia Cricket Association CEO Christina Matthews wants the Perth Test to adopt an Aboriginal theme in the same mould as the AFL’s annual Dreamtime at the ‘G clash.
The AFL has made Dreamtime at the ‘G — an idea championed by trailblazing former Essendon coach Kevin Sheedy to celebrate ancient Aboriginal culture — a highlight and staple of its calendar.
Essendon and Richmond attract over 80,000 people to the MCG every year for the fixture, which is staged in the heart of the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, with fans treated to a moving Welcome to County ceremony under dimmed lighting inside the iconic stadium.
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Cricket’s version, in theory, would have a different look to it, given Tests will always begin in the daylight, but Matthews thinks the idea could have legs.
“It was an idea of one of our members, who proposed it when they were standing for election, and it was to use the Test in Perth to celebrate Aboriginal history and culture,” Matthews told 7NEWS.com.au.
“He and I talked it through, and I think it’s got real merit; bringing the WACA ground into play with a walk from there, over Matagarup Bridge to the stadium, smoking ceremonies, the history of Aboriginal cricket in Western Australia — which is quite strong — and learning experiences every year through that Test match.
“It’s about acknowledging the oldest living civilisation.”
Matthews, who earlier this month announced she would be stepping down from her role in March after 12 years in the hot seat, said the idea presents the opportunity for Perth to develop something original in cricket, similar to the way the Sydney Test has become known as the ‘Pink Test’, in honour of the Jane McGrath Foundation.
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Christina Matthews says a Dreamtime at the ‘G equivalent could work for cricket. Credit: Will Russell/Getty Images for Cricket Austral
“I think it will give us something really to hold on to, and to develop, that’s not done anywhere else,” Matthews said.
“And it’s more than just an Aboriginal theme; it’s about celebrating, embracing and demonstrating what we’re doing in Aboriginal communities and how we’re building pathways for Aboriginal kids, male and female.
“Perth Stadium was built along Aboriginal cultural lines, and if you walk around the outside, you’ll see Aboriginal language and then English language. So, there’s a lot there that is a good starting point.”
The outgoing WACA boss stressed that while her executive team would love to implement the idea, the decision to do so rests solely on the shoulders of Cricket Australia.
Cricket Australia has been contacted by 7NEWS.com.au for comment.
Australia hosted Pakistan in Perth last week. Credit: Will Russell – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Imag
Given the infancy of the idea, Matthews said the WACA hasn’t sat down to work out exactly what the Test’s celebration of Indigenous culture would like — but she sees an endless list of possibilities.
“There are all sorts of things you can do in terms of stories,” she said.
“The difference with a Test, as compared to an AFL game, is also in the coverage of it — that you can have little stories during the Test about different parts of Aboriginal culture that is part of broadcast and radio.
“There is so much more you can do than something like Dreamtime at the ‘G, which only has a short timespan, whereas a cricket game has whole day where you can do activities and overlay the Aboriginal culture into everything you do.
“In our Scorchers BBL matches, we have an Aboriginal-themed round, we do all sorts of things.
“Imagine the welcome to country with the didgeridoo player on the roof.
“We’d love to promote things like using Aboriginal words for things rather than English, we can have Aboriginal experiences around the precinct of the ground for people entering and leaving — we haven’t sat down and planned anything because it’s only an idea at this stage. But it’s a bit like, ‘How long is a piece of string’? in terms of what’s possible.”
Players and match officials stand bare footed around Aboriginal artwork as Dr Richard Walley performs the Welcome to Country during a Big Bash League match between the Perth Scorchers and the Sydney Thunder. Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images
She also said it’s important to note that the culture of Aboriginal mobs in Perth is different to that of mobs from Sydney, Melbourne or any other Australian city, so it would be important to represent their people correctly and specifically.
“Aboriginal culture is vastly different in each state,” Matthews said.
“So, you’ve got to be conscious of what happens in the state you’re in, and not just assume that what you know of Aboriginal culture in Melbourne is the same in Perth. It’d be on us to build that up.”
The idea comes after an undertone of criticism that has been hurled at Perth for what some cricket pundits have described as an underwhelming crowd for Australia’s season-opening first Test against Pakistan last week.
Just under 50,000 fans attended the opening three days of the Test, which was a record attendance for a Perth Test featuring Pakistan, while just under 10,000 turned out for the fourth and final day of the match to see Australia take a 1-0 lead.
Matthews dismissed the suggestion that the crowd was sub-par.
“We were 30 or 40 per cent up on our previous highest crowds, which you can’t complain about,” she told 7NEWS.com.au.
“It’s about building the crowd; we’ve had a very interrupted five years since we went to the stadium, and we’ve got to work. But in terms of our share of population, it was an unbelievable result.
“Every state has lower crowds when there are sides like Pakistan playing, compared to an Ashes series. I think there just needs to be a bit of common sense about the whole thing.
“I’ve been at plenty of day fours in Sydney and Melbourne when the crowd is less than 10,000.
“Everybody that was there, loved it, there was a really good atmosphere, it is a fantastic stadium, and it is one that is purpose built for cricket and footy, and meets everybody’s needs.”