Words: Celia Drummond
Pictures: Juliet Magee
Producer: Sarah Morton
THE WEATHER conditions during this year's NAIDOC Week activities at Piara Waters Football Club in Western Australia weren't ideal. Thick clouds, torrential rain and a cold wind made participating in the pre-match Welcome to Country and smoking ceremonies quite a challenge.
Despite this, the club's enthusiasm to unite and celebrate couldn't be dampened.
"The club rooms and terrace were packed with players, supporters and staff. Everybody wanted to be involved," photographer Juliet Magee recalls.
"What impressed me about shooting these significant cultural ceremonies was how motivated everyone was to witness and to be involved in the day."
On the field, Indigenous Elder Barry Winmar looked out across the oval while waiting for the burning eucalyptus leaves to create enough smoke to conduct the ancient cleansing ceremony. Then, members of Piara Waters (kitted out in Indigenous jumpers deigned by player Jayden Helwig) and fellow local team the Gosnells Hawks lined up arm in arm as the Welcome to Country was performed.
For Whadjuk Noongar man Winmar, it was a special moment.
"Looking back at the photos from the day, I feel tremendously proud and humbled that I could give everyone who participated in the ceremony a sense of belonging, connectedness and strength through the Aboriginal cultural experience," he recalls.
These important images are Juliet's submissions to #FootyFocus22, thanks to Toyota. They are a celebration of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people standing together as one in a respectful and unified moment in time.
For Piara Waters player and NAIDOC week coordinator, Alyssa Walton, Juliet's images captured the significance of the day perfectly.
"All rivalries were put aside to pay our respects to Indigenous culture. These scenes are so valuable to us as a representation of what our club stands for," Alyssa says.
The Piara Waters Football Club was established in 2015. The club was previously known as the Southern River Football Club, and it is home to three men's teams and two women's teams. It is a diverse club of players from varied ethnicities, ages, and skill levels.
Juliet Magee has been shooting both Perth Football League and WAFL matches, including stints at Piara Waters. She was introduced to footy through her partner Chris, who is also a keen photographer.
"When COVID hit Australia and Western Australia's borders closed, footy photography really filled the void for me. I joined Women in Sport WA last year as a volunteer photographer and they have provided me with so much appreciated advice," she says.
She now loves shooting footy at the grassroots level, and revels in the sense of community that it brings.
"I find the clubs very welcoming, with few barriers to taking photos. I have found everyone extremely friendly and easy to chat to if I'm at a match on my own," she says.
While the traditional 'decisive moment' action shots of a match are a thrill to capture, Juliet also has a keen eye for the storytelling opportunities presented outside the four quarters of match play. It was this chance to tell a story that excited Juliet, and why Alyssa and Piara Waters invited her to capture their NAIDOC Week celebrations.
"Events like NAIDOC are so important to acknowledge and celebrate at our club. it's important we ensure that these moments are properly celebrated and acknowledged every year," Alyssa says.
"It also provides the opportunity for members to feel supported and comfortable to share other moments that may be of importance and are to be celebrated."
Barry Winmar agrees. He grew up around country football and some of his earliest memories are as a six-year-old playing and watching family members – such as Nicky Winmar – excel at the game.
Barry has also undertaken support roles such as looking after the scoreboards, running the boundaries, running water and coaching junior and senior teams at a grassroots level.
"I am a firm believer that community footy brings people together. Even more so now with the significant growth of women's participation in the game," he says.
"Community football clubs are the heartbeat of a lot of communities, and a place where young lives are shaped and where they find belonging - in the club and in the community more broadly."
A migrant from the United Kingdom, Juliet Magee has a personal interest in learning more about the cultural history and customs of Indigenous people.
"Being present at Piara Waters to shoot that day was a great opportunity to witness the smoking ceremony and understand more of its significance to Whadjuk Noongar people," Juliet says.
Meanwhile, Winmar loves celebrating his people's culture at the grassroots level of footy and recognises the opportunity to educate that it presents.
"I am privileged to have the trust and respect passed on to me by my Elders to deliver Indigenous cultural ceremonies that connect all Australians in some way. The ceremonies are an opportunity for everyone to learn more about the richness and beauty of First Australians."
#FootyFocus22, thanks to Toyota's Good For Footy program, is now open for entries! Here's your chance to shadow and shoot with Michael Willson and Dylan Burns at a game in 2023. We want to see your photos that capture the essence of our great game at a grassroots level. To enter, upload your best community footy photos taken during 2022 to: http://footyfocus22.afl/