BARENGI Gadjin Land Council Recognition, Advocacy and Media Manager Janine Coombs has called for people to talk with the group about the Wimmera's Aboriginal history.
A Wotjobaluk woman, Ms Coombs said residents shouldn't feel "anxious" to start a conversation with Traditional Owners out of concerns for saying the wrong thing.
It comes as a play on the Wimmera-trained Aboriginal First XI cricket team is set to premiere in Sydney on Thursday, one of several initiatives set to bring the story wider recognition in coming years.
"Especially with the whole treaty movement at the moment, I find there are so many non-Aboriginal people that have so many questions they want to ask, but they are too anxious to, in fear of... coming across as disrespectful or insulting someone," she said.
"It means the questions don't get asked, so I always say to anyone I'm talking to no question is an inappropriate question. I've probably heard it before, and it's better you get the answer instead of holding onto the question."
Ms Coombs said people could contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. She also sits on Cricket Victoria's Aboriginal Advisory Committee.
In 1868, 13 Aboriginal men from western Victoria spent a year overseas playing British cricket teams, having been trained by farmers in Edenhope and across the Western District.
The most famous was Jardwadjali man Unaarrimin, of Harrow, also known as Johnny Mullagh.
Harrow Discovery Centre manager Josie Sangster said it was planning to bring a theatre production based around the team's journey, Black Cockatoo, to the Johnny Mullagh Oval in Harrow on April 21. The play premieres in Sydney on Thursday.
"I look forward to meeting and consulting with community to bring this production to the broader community as respectfully as possible," she said.
Written by Geoffrey Atherden and directed by Wesley Enoch, the story follows a group of young present-day activists that sneak into the Wimmera Discovery Centre to expose what happened to the team members after they returned.
Ms Coombs said it was important people recognised the men formed the first Australian sports team ever to tour overseas, and that descendants of theirs still lived and worked both on and off-country.
"I think it's also really important to have the understanding that once they did get back from England it was dispossession and onto a mission," she said.
"I think it would be good to start to raise awareness. There needs to be a recognition, almost to an acknowledgement, of things that happened in the past such as ... my ancestors being dispossessed of our cultural lands, just as their needs to be acknowledgement and education of the massacres that happened back in the day."
Cultural awareness training provided by Wergaia woman Joanne Clark detailed dozens of massacres of Victorian Traditional Owners that took place between 1836 and 1853.
Ms Sangster agreed this needed to be addressed as part of the story of the First XI.
"It needs to be acknowledged (their sporting achievements are) all the more amazing because of what they had just encountered," she said. "We've actually written it up in the discovery centre."
She said the story could be, and was being, used as a positive example.
"I've just had contact with an Indigenous cricketer from NSW looking at bringing a team of Indigenous kids from all over Australia to Harrow to teach them how courageous and endearing (the players were) and how they took their culture to the world," she said.
Coinciding with the play will be Cricket Australia's first annual optional staff pilgrimage to Harrow to allow staff to connect with the story of the first XI. The initiative is outlined in the sporting organisation's Reconciliation Action Plan 2019-2022, unveiled in December.
As part of another initiative in the action plan, the best player in the 2020 Boxing Day Test will receive the Mullagh medal.
Ms Sangster said the centre had also recently consulted with Melbourne man Peter Johnson, who was hoping to make a film or a six-part television series reproducing the story of the first XI.
Mr Johnson, who has been working in Indigenous media for 15 years, told the Mail-Times he first got the idea to make the film after wandering into the discovery centre five years ago, while on his way to visit friends.
"There are many parts to making a film, the most major is developing a screenplay," he said. "Hopefully that will be developed by April, and then we will take that to market to the likes of Netflix and other international buyers who will hopefully support the production.
"We're reaching out to (BGLC) at the moment to seek their involvement because we're going through a workshop, where for four weeks we will sit down with indigenous writers, take the storyline we've developed over the last 12 months and put it out for discussion."
Mr Johnson said he wanted to tell the Johnny Mullagh story "from an Indigenous perspective".
"My desire is to make this film as a positive statement of conciliation, where Indigenous players go across the world, sail on a sea they've never seen before, take on the pommies in cricket and beat them," he said.
"(This shows) the potential for original Australians and those that have come since to work together. That we're the same human beings, we all have aspirations and regardless of our circumstances now, finding the best way to go forward."
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