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Grant Hansen Yarns Up about NAIDOC Week 2020

Grant Hansen grew up in the western suburbs barracking for the Bulldogs. His father George was a one-eyed Bulldog who worked in pubs and had "the gift of the gab". His mother Ruth was a one-eyed Bulldog who taught her son "You make your own luck". Grant speaks to Gman about NAIDOC week and what it meant to him... 3KND connecting to community. Grants parents split when he was 12. He doesn't remember it as being a trauma for him. "I was happy for them to be happy again." When his mother re-married, the ceremony was held on the Whitten Oval, the Bulldogs' home ground.

Grant gets his Aboriginality from his mother – her mother's people, the Franklins from Yea, were Taungurung people. To speak to Ruth, now in her 80s, is to meet a mother with a luminous belief in her son. "It was my dream for Grant to be educated," she says. He was at Essendon Grammar when his parents split; after that, he went to Kealba High School.

He'd first been aware of his skin colour in primary school. An Indian kid joined their class. The teacher put the Indian kid beside Hansen and instinctively he understood why – they were the same colour. When he was 12 a kid at Essendon Grammar called him nigger and it hurt.

After the TV drama Roots appeared, he got called Kunta Kinte. There were other names as well but he was good at sport and part of him said it didn't matter what they called him – he'd show them who was better out on the sports field. "I don't know if I was cocky," he says. "I was confident." At 28, he was captain-coach of the Kealba Green Gully Cricket Club. By then, he'd become interested in politics. During his teens, he'd attended land rights rallies. He always remembers hearing black radical Gary Foley say, "There's no point hating. There's not enough of us." By then he was also making steps in his music career as a guitarist with the Aboriginal band Blackfire.

Blackfire toured China; they also toured Australia with Yothu Yindi. Hansen was adopted into the Yolngu clan by Yothu Yindi's lead singer, Dr Yunupingu. Hansen lists him as a major influence. "He was a really smart traditional man. He was a school principal. He had balanced views on things in Australia." Hansen has always enjoyed getting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people together. "At the end of the day," he says, "both cultures are running through me." Marngrook Footy Show star Leila Gurruwiwi is a Yolngu woman and a niece of Dr Yunupingu. When she was 18 and studying for her VCE, she came to Melbourne and lived with Hansen.

Twelve months later, he told her he was starting an indigenous footy TV show and wanted her to be in it. Leila recalls him saying, "I want you to do the show. It'll be good for you. You'll be fine." Leila says, "Grant lives in both worlds, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. He can talk to people in both worlds and give the perspective of each to the other."

Grant is a person who says what's on his mind and that doesn't always make him friends. He was in charge of the Songlines Aboriginal Music Corporation for 10 years. He remembers the Sunday morning he was watching World of Sport and revolted at the thought there wasn't one Aboriginal commentator in the AFL, not on TV or radio, not in the print media.

He took the idea of an indigenous footy radio show to community station 3CR who, initially, were not impressed. Jay Estorninho, the producer of the Marngrook Footy Show, was then at 3CR. "Grant just wouldn't take no for an answer." Asked to describe Hansen, he says, "Determined". Grants business partner Peter Johnson says, "He's courageous with his own ideas and he knows how to get things done. There seems no end to his energy." Hansen's aim is to get the Marngrook Footy Show, currently telecast by NITV, on to mainstream TV. "All we need," he says, "is someone to give us a go."

The Marngrook Footy Show has a unique vibe. You never feel embarrassed for anyone on Marngrook. It's a show that epitomises respect. As Gurruwiwi says, "Guests are treated as guests". Hansen says, "Respect comes naturally to indigenous people".

Along with Gurruwiwi, the Marngrook Footy Show has Shelley Ware. Each woman is charming in her own way, both know their footy, both are confident with the men on the Marngrook panel. The show is old-fashioned. It goes to air on Thursday nights after the teams are announced. It's about who's in and who's out, about having a bit of good-natured fun talking footy. Each week, it works its spell and the Marngrook Footy Show becomes a place where race doesn't matter. Each week, it ends with good Australian music, a band or a singer selected by Hansen who hits you in that place where only Australian art can hit you.

If I get asked about reconciliation in this country, by people from here or overseas, I tell them about the Marngrook Footy Show. I don't see anyone doing it better. Story shared by Martin Flanagan.

Always Was, Always Will Be. recognises that First Nations people have occupied and cared for this continent for over 65,000 years.

We are spiritually and culturally connected to this country.

This country was criss-crossed by generations of brilliant Nations.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were Australia's first explorers, first navigators, first engineers, first farmers, first botanists, first scientists, first diplomats, first astronomers and first artists.

Australia has the world's oldest oral stories. The First Peoples engraved the world's first maps, made the earliest paintings of ceremony and invented unique technologies. We built and engineered structures - structures on Earth - predating well-known sites such as the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge.

Our adaptation and intimate knowledge of Country enabled us to endure climate change, catastrophic droughts and rising sea levels.

Always Was, Always Will Be. acknowledges that hundreds of Nations and our cultures covered this continent. All were managing the land - the biggest estate on earth - to sustainably provide for their future.

Through ingenious land management systems like fire stick farming we transformed the harshest habitable continent into a land of bounty.

NAIDOC Week 2020 acknowledges and celebrates that our nation's story didn't begin with documented European contact whether in 1770 or 1606 - with the arrival of the Dutch on the western coast of the Cape York Peninsula.

The very first footprints on this continent were those belonging to First Nations peoples.

Our coastal Nations watched and interacted with at least 36 contacts made by Europeans prior to 1770. Many of them resulting in the charting of the northern, western and southern coastlines - of our lands and our waters.

For us, this nation's story began at the dawn of time.

NAIDOC 2020 invites all Australians to embrace the true history of this country - a history which dates back thousands of generations.

It's about seeing, hearing and learning the First Nations' 65,000+ year history of this country - which is Australian history. We want all Australians to celebrate that we have the oldest continuing cultures on the planet and to recognise that our sovereignty was never ceded.

Always Was, Always Will Be!


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