Under the watchful eye of a local teacher, Anika Learoyd is learning how to paint symbols used in Aboriginal art.
Just a week ago, the teenager from NSW was the leading scorer at the Female Under 18 National Championships in Tasmania. Now, she’s in Alice Springs, on another cricketing adventure. But this one - the National Indigenous Cricket Championships - has a very different meaning.
“When you come along to something like this and you hear all the stories about what the mobs used to do, where they used to meet, things like that, you feel a sense of pride that you’re part of it,” Learoyd says.
“You feel a connection that’s very hard to put into words.”
It’s a connection that came into her life only recently. The young all-rounder says she was 13 or 14 when her mother first mentioned that there was Indigenous heritage in the family.
“Unfortunately I don’t know a whole lot about that part of my background because it goes a fair way back in my family. Also, it was a subject that came with some shame, no one wanted to talk about it and it died out along the generations.
“We tried to find out some information online but couldn’t find a huge amount. My Nan didn’t know much either, so it’s a shame that there’s a fair bit of information that’s been lost. But there’s not much we can do about it now.”
What Learoyd does know is that her Indigenous lineage goes back to the area around Scone in NSW and it was from her mother’s side of the family. Coffs Harbour, where Learoyd lives, is more than 400 kilometres from Scone. But, keen to connect with her history, she took it upon herself to engage locally.
“The mob at Coffs is the Gumbaynggir mob. I try and associate a bit with them. There’s a cultural centre near my house and I’ve gone there a few times. I’ve looked at a few things online and tried to get involved with the local mob however I can.
“I was quite surprised when Mum told me. But I love that I have that history in my background and I like learning about the culture.”
The art lessons are part of a culture day at the fifth NICCs, a new addition to the tournament, which the players have enjoyed between matches. Among the activities are stories of the land and ways in which traditional culture can be passed through the generations.
Learoyd, who is playing at her fourth NICCs, says the culture day has added a valuable dimension to the tournament.
“We got to pick a canvas and then we were to create a story and illustrate it on that canvas. I really enjoyed it, it was a great experience and something I hadn’t done before.
“It’s such a cool experience. Last year and this year we’ve gone out to some of the schools and spent time with local kids. It’s a great way of connecting with your culture and learning things you wouldn’t learn at home.
“This tournament really builds a community experience and, when you go back home, you try and build that amongst your club, or team. Then you come back and rebuild it, re-connect with the people you met last time. It’s a really good feeling.”