Bargara Football Club embraces culture with First Nations name change to Mee’barr and Bar’aggi

A junior football team in the Bundaberg region is adopting First Nations names to recognize and connect with local indigenous culture.

On a sports oval surrounded by palm trees and overlooking the blue ocean, a group of under-5s burn off their post-school energy by kicking soccer balls.

The children are members of the Bargara Football Club and their teams now go by the names Mee’barr which means ‘saltwater turtle’ and Bar’aggi which means ‘warrior’ in the local indigenous language, Taribelang Bunda.

Club representative Kath Campbell said such a simple gesture would have a big impact.

“It was suggested that we contact our traditional owners and find names that reflect Bargara Football Club and the beautiful land here,” Ms Campbell said.

“They were able to work with us and find suitable names that reflect our values, as well as the traditional grounds we play on.

“At first it was a mouthful for the under-5s, but they’ve really embraced them, so we’re proud of them – it’s had a huge impact.”

The name helps cultural education

The club’s board decided that introducing First Nations names to their entry-level teams was a positive way to educate the kids as they progressed through the years.

A workshop with Taribelang Bunda Chief Byron Bunda-Broome, who helped develop the names, was held and stories of culture and land were shared with Mee’barr and Bar’aggi players.

Ms. Campbell believed that if children learned about the culture, so would their parents and guardians.

“We look forward to doing this every year when we induct our under-5s,” she said.

“I just take that learning from our children to adults – we both learn alongside each other.

“It’s about not taking this journey too fast, taking it slow, learning as parents, learning as a community with our traditional owners.”

It is hoped that the Bargara FC Under 5s will grow up with a strong understanding of local Indigenous culture through First Nations names and education.(ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

Precious language almost lost

Byron Bunda-Broome is a man from Taribelang who helped the club develop First Nations names.

He was delighted that the club had approached the Taribelang Aboriginal Corporation for help.

“It was a blessing in disguise,” Mr Bunda-Broome said.

“When you have an Indigenous organization and a white organization coming together, that’s reconciliation in action.

“I’m so proud to bring back my old language, my history and my lingo for white people to use. That’s how we keep our culture alive.”

Many First Nations languages ​​came close to extinction due to restrictions on their speaking and Mr Bunda-Broome said it took a lot of work to prevent them from being lost.

A large children's football team is seated with an Australian first educator standing behind them.
Local First Nations histories and traditions were part of the Bargara FC nomination process.(Provided by: Bargara FC)

He was also thrilled to share stories about Mon Repos Beach with a new generation learning about the vital role it played with First Nations people.

“It goes back to our Dreamtime, where the people of Taribelang Bunda knew when the turtles were coming,” Mr Bunda-Broome said.

“We were the protectors of the land and when they came down we would help them back to sea.

“Not only was it for the turtles, but it was a sacred site for the initiation of our young men. So when the turtles appeared, it was a time for our young people to challenge themselves and for the children to become a man.”

More Australian teams could adopt First Nations names

While Mr Bunda-Broome hoped more sports clubs would consider using native language names, he stressed the importance of working with indigenous peoples and local elders.

“The turtle is one of our totems and now it’s also one of the football club’s totems,” Mr Bunda-Broome said.

“These are our little warrior turtles and they’re just getting started and they grow up and become big turtles and go out into the world.

“They also have a bit of Dreamtime behind their story.”

He hoped the concept would develop.

“We should see more of that in Australia,” Mr Bunda-Broome said.

“It sheds light on Indigenous culture and history and it encourages the white man to engage with us, to bridge the gap and to understand each other better.

“If we understand each other better, our children can live happier lives.”

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