The NRL has showcased a subdued variant of the Welcome to Country ceremony at the 2023 grand final and the packed house at Accor stadium has responded with rapturous applause – with one statement in particular resonating with footy fans.
There were no traditional dancers, there was no smoking ceremony and there were no political statements that have been present at Welcome to Country ceremonies in the past.
Instead, Uncle Allan Madden delivered a short, sincere welcome to people of all backgrounds which was warmly received by the crowd and many viewers at home.
There were no theatrics of political statements during the Welcome to Country at the NRL Grand Final, just a warm and sincere welcome to all
The crowd responded positively to the Welcome to Country ceremony, with the packed house applauding the line ‘was, is, and always will be Aboriginal land’
Welcome to Country ceremonies in the past have included traditional entertainment, but this was a simple statement that resonated with the crowd
‘I would like to acknowledge our First Nations and traditional owners of the lands that you may have come from and pay my respects to all Aboriginal elders, all elders, past and present
‘To all Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander brothers and sisters, from whatever Aboriginal or island nation you may have come from, welcome to Wann-gal.
‘And to all our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters here this evening, a very warm and sincere welcome to you to Wann-gal.
‘No matter where you have come from, whether it be across the sea, across the state or across town, once again, a very warm and sincere welcome to you to Wann-gal.
But it was the next line that struck a chord with the capacity crowd and drew an enormous response.
‘And as I have mentioned many times before, was, is, and always will be Aboriginal land,’ he said as cheers rang out through the stadium.
While there was a smattering of Welcome to Country detractors on social media expressing their usual disapproval, there were plenty of supporters at home that applauded the minimalist, sincere ceremony given by Uncle Madden.
‘Thank you Uncle Allan Madden for your Welcome to Country. Great to hear the respect from the crowd too. Lots of cheers and no boos,’ one fan posted.
‘Listening to the NRL welcome to country. You’ve got to be pretty addicted to being outraged to find fault with it I reckon,’ added another.
‘Love seeing the racists expose themselves when they cry about the welcome to country,’ posted another.
Uncle Allen, a Gadigal man from the Eora nation, began working at various organisations, including the Aboriginal Legal Service, from the age of 14.
He has served on several boards including Sydney Foreshore Authority, SBS, Central Coast Aboriginal Heritage, and currently sits on the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Local Council.
Alongside his extensive work history, Uncle Allen has been involved in numerous television shows like Redfern Now and First Australian, and is a family man with 10 children.