KARI Partners with 2018 Festival of Indigenous Rugby League

From left to right: KARI Founder Paul Ralph, KARI CEO Casey Ralph and KARI Ambassador Laurie Daley.

KARI is proud to have supported the 2018 Festival of Indigenous Rugby League, which took place from 6th – 10th February 2018. Run by the National Rugby League (NRL), the Festival ran in place of the traditional format of the Rugby League All Stars.

Over the course of a week, the Festival brought together over 8,000 people to celebrate Indigenous culture, strengthen community and highlight the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, particularly through Rugby League. It was also a chance to welcome our Maori brothers and sisters, as they competed against our Indigenous teams on Game Day.

The week focused on community activities including the Youth Leadership Summit at Rugby League Central and the Indigenous Wellbeing and Employment Expo.

The Youth Leadership Summit has been a major feature of All Stars Week in the past, and is a significant event in the NRL’s School to Work Program. This year, the Summit brought together 64 Indigenous youth to inspire and encourage them to succeed in the areas of leadership, culture, education and employment.

The Wellbeing and Employment Expo took place at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence on 9th February, with the purpose of raising awareness about community services that promote community growth, skill development and confidence building. The Expo also promoted the value of education and employment opportunities for Indigenous youth.

The Teams’ Dinner took place on Thursday 8th February at the Crystal Palace, Luna Park. The dinner was an opportunity for the men’s and women’s Indigenous and Maori teams to come together to celebrate the Festival.

Yvonne Sampson emceed the event, followed by an address from the Honourable Linda Burney MP, who spoke about culture, leadership and identity. Ms Burney also spoke positively about the launch of the NRL’s fourth Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).


KARI Chairperson Gary Potts also addressed the crowd, talking about KARI’s partnership with the Festival. “Our sponsorship helps to build a strong and empowered community,” said Potts. “Sharing culture provides an opportunity to learn and grow.”


Todd Greenberg, CEO National Rugby League, spoke about the NRL’s RAP. He discussed the NRL’s key achievements as a result of its 2017 RAP.


“We have partnered with Recognise and used NRL major events to raise community awareness about constitutional recognition,” Greenberg said. “We want to drive social change. We will celebrate all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.”

CEO of Reconciliation Australia Karen Mundine reflected on this.

“It was probably 10 years ago that we began this journey with the National Rugby League,” said Mundine. “The hard work starts here.”

Indigenous Rugby League

The evening was a beautiful celebration of both Indigenous Australian and Maori cultures, with the exchange of cultural gifts and a moving performance by the Maori team concluding the event.

The Festival wrapped up with Game Day on Saturday 10th February at Redfern Oval. Crowds enjoyed the Men’s Interstate Challenge, which saw the Newcastle Yowies defeat the Dhadhin Geai Warriors 38-30.

The First Nation Gems then went on to defeat the NZ Maori Women’s 18-0 in the second game of the day.

Gems captain Samartha Leisha spoke to the NRL.com about the achievement.

“We were all a bit nervous before the match but we all reassured each other and we knew we had each other’s back. We were going out as sisters regardless,” Leisha said.

“I’m so proud. The girls really put in, helped each other out and were there for each other on the field,” she continued.

“The win feels amazing and to be captaining the side it’s an unreal feeling and an amazing experience I’ll never forget.”

The final match between the First Nations Goannas and the NZ Maori Men’s was a clincher, with the First Nations Goannas proving too strong for the NZ Maori Men’s, winning 22-16.

Goannas captain Wes Middleton told NRL.com he was filled with immense pride for his team.

“The experience was unreal. I’m very proud of my brothers. It was a bit rusty to start but it was the first time playing together,” he said.

There were also a number of stall holders from various community groups and organisations present on the day.

KARI is proud to partner with the NRL on such a significant event and we look forward to bringing you more positive stories about our Indigenous communities throughout the year.