When the opportunity was presented to Jamie Macmillan to spend a week in a remote Northern Territory community with not-for-profit organisation Red Dust, it was something he couldn’t say no to.
The North Melbourne defender had always wanted to become involved with indigenous community programs but was unsure of where to start — a sense of self-confessed naivety limiting where Macmillan felt he was able to help.
“I have always been pretty naïve when it comes to that part of Australian culture and history,’ he told AFLPlayers.com.au, after returning from a week-long trip to the remote town of Yuendumu.
After a conversation with North Melbourne ruck coach and Red Dust board member Will Minson, Macmillan and Kangaroos teammate Jy Simpkin began their involvement with the organisation.
The North Melbourne duo were joined in the NT by AFLW players including Carlton trio Jess and Sarah Hosking and Nicola Stevens.
They helped Red Dust deliver their programs which are focused on educating indigenous communities throughout the NT around the link between lifestyle choices and chronic disease.
While in Yuendumu, Macmillan, who is a member of North Melbourne’s leadership group, spent time with the local school children delivering lessons around leadership, healthy living and their common connection of a love for Australian rules football.
“It’s fair to say I came back having learnt a lot (about their community) but also quite sore from the amount of footy I played,” Macmillan joked.
For Macmillan, the most important aspect of his experience with Red Dust was about being able to immerse himself in a community and open his eyes to an aspect of Australian culture and history that he felt ignorant about.
“It was almost like I thought I knew but you go there and realise that you know not even one per cent of their culture and history,” he explained.
“I went in not really expecting much but just to go in and see what the week brought. To be honest, I probably still only know one per cent but I have learnt a hell of a lot.”
Despite 10 per cent of players on AFL lists identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, Macmillan believes community knowledge relating to Indigenous Australians is lacking.
“I would encourage people to try and get involved. The history of our game is rich with indigenous players, past and present, but I think we are really lacking in our understanding of where they come from and their history.”
After being embraced by the community of Yuendumu, Macmillan plans to continue to utilise his profile in the community to bring important issues to light.
“I realise now that while I don’t have the biggest profile of anyone by any stretch of the imagination, if I can touch just a few who perhaps have never heard of these organisations that is something I want to do.”