Most of the time, when an AFL player becomes prominent to be commemorated, it’s usually something that can be sold on an AFL shop online, but indigenous star player Nicky Winmar was recently commemorated with a bronze statue in his likeness, made following his stand against racist abuse from spectators, which will be unveiled at a stadium in Perth just before the Western Derby.
Winmar responded to a torrent of racism from Collingwood fans following his win over the Magpies at home field, at Victoria Park, by holding his St. Kilda guernsey up high, then pointing to his chest, an act that has made his guernseys desirable in many a AFL shop online, and the man himself into an icon.
He commented on the statue made in his honour, saying that he hopes it encourages conversations, discussions, and, most importantly, education, about Torres Strait Islanders, as well as Aboriginal people across Australia, as well as their history and culture. He admits that it’s a fairly surreal thing to be a part of, and something he and his family are quite proud of.
The Noongar man, hailing from Western Australia, Mr. Winmar wanted to make sure that the statue had a permanent home on the land of his people, which is why it will be installed at the Optus Stadium, with the grand unveiling set for the 6th of July.
The statue was made by the renowned Melbourne sculptor Louis Laumen, with cooperation from the AFL. Funding was acquired via crowdfunding, and will be delivered from Victoria, where it was made, to Western Australia in the coming weeks.
Notably, the Optus Stadium precinct has dedications to the WA’s Aboriginal Heritage, alongside the Matagarup Bridge, which has an audio art installation that shares cultural stories from indigenous people, and is a permanent fixture to the traditional people that have made their mark on the precinct. The new statue is expected to compliment these fixtures quite nicely.
WA’s Aboriginal Affairs Minister Ben Wyatt described Winmar as a trailblazer, not just for footballers, but for the Aboriginese. However, this recent action thrust him into the arena of social justice. He says that Winwar’s actions that day have inspired many, both in sports and in life, to stand up and be proud, of themselves, and their heritage.