THE AFL would like to acknowledge 2020 NAIDOC Week which is celebrated across Australia from November 8- 15.

Held annually, NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This year, the 2020 NAIDOC Week theme is 'Always Was, Always Will Be' which recognises the length of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander occupation of Australia, that dates back to more than 65,000 years.

Season 2020 has witnessed a number of memorable ground-breaking moments and achievements by members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community within the AFL.

For the first time in AFLW history, nineteen-year-old Carlton midfielder Madison Prespakis became the first Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander player to win the AFLW Best and Fairest Medal. 

Madison Prespakis with the 2020 AFLW Best and Fairest Medal in April, 2020. Picture: Michael Willson

2020 marked the fourteenth occasion the AFL has celebrated the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and their contribution to Australian Football in the annual Sir Doug Nicholls Round, and the fifth year the dedicated round has been named in honour of Fitzroy legend and former Governor of South Australia, Sir Doug Nicholls.

For the first time in AFL history, the annual Dreamtime match between Richmond and Essendon was taken to TIO Stadium in Darwin and played in front thousands of locals.

Action from the Dreamtime in Darwin game in round 13 between Essendon and Richmond at TIO Stadium in August, Picture: Getty Images

Fans in Central Australia and across the Top End also had the opportunity to watch six different AFL clubs play in local venues throughout the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership season, including the Gold Coast SUNS, Carlton, Richmond, Essendon, Melbourne and St Kilda who played in the annual Heart of the Nation game held in Alice Springs. 

Excited fans at the round 13 Dreamtime match between Essendon and Richmond at Darwin's TIO Stadium in August. Picture: Getty Images

Off the field, the AFL, in partnership with NITV, was proud to launch the Yokayi Footy Show which was created to highlight stories of Indigenous footballers and celebrate their contribution to the game. Hosted by former AFL player Tony Armstrong, AFLW advocate and youth pioneer Bianca Hunt, and former triple premiership Brisbane Lions and Australian Indigenous Team of the Century player Darryl White, the Yokayi Footy Show has fast become a favourite amongst football fans, reaching a weekly average viewership of 14,000 across the AFL network and a weekly average of 17,500 views on SBS/NITV platforms. 

The AFL's first Indigenous and second female executive, Tanya Hosch, was commended for her leadership roles across several sectors with the 2021 SA Australian of the Year award.   

Michael Long, AFL inclusion and social policy manager Tanya Hosch and Gavin Wanganeen at TIO Stadium in Darwin on Thursday. Picture: Getty Images

In addition, the AFL, in conjunction with Australia's e-Safety Commissioner, strengthened its commitment to facilitating a safe and respectful online community with the launch of the #PlayitFairOnline e-safety video, which called on fans to stand up to racism and end the damaging cycle of online abuse.

General Manager for Inclusion & Social Policy, Tanya Hosch said NAIDOC Week was a great opportunity for all Australians to reflect on the contribution achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within the football community.

"The year 2020 will be remembered across the world for a number of different reasons, however it's pleasing to know from a football perspective, it will be remembered as one that witnessed a number of significant achievements by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community," Hosch said.

AFL manager of inclusion and social policy Tanya Hosch during the Sir Doug Nicholls Round media launch in May, 2019. AFL Photos

"Both on and off the field this year we've seen the positive impact football continues to have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and I'm excited to see how we continue to progress this in 2021 and beyond."

In 2020, approximately 10 per cent of the current AFL and AFLW playing group identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, with 87 male players and 22 female players represented across 71 cultural and language groups.

The AFL is proud to continue to work with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to help better support and acknowledge their significant contribution to our great game, both on and off the field.

NOTE: 2020 NAIDOC Week is taking place in November follow the decision by the National NAIDOC Committee to postpone NAIDOC Week from the original July dates due to the impacts and uncertainty caused by COVID-19.