This year’s NAIDOC Week theme celebrates the essential role that women have played – and continue to play – as active and significant role models at the community, local, state and national levels.
No-one epitomises this within the Canberra rugby league community like Katrina Fanning – one of the pioneers for women’s rugby league in the region.
A proud Wiradjuri woman, Fanning paved the way for all women wanting to play rugby league as she played in the inaugural Jillaroos test in 1995 and made 24 appearances for Australia. In Canberra, she captain-coached the Gungahlin Bulls as they won three premierships in Canberra’s previous women’s competition.
Having seen the growth of women’s rugby league since that inaugural Jillaroos test, Fanning has been excited to see young indigenous players from the Canberra region getting involved in the game.
“If I can be of any help in regards to them making good choices, I’m happy to offer any support that I can,” Fanning said. “That’s what rugby league did for me and without it, my life would have been different, not be as satisfying and complete as I feel it is.”
With NAIDOC Week currently underway, Fanning believes it is a valuable time of year for all Australians.
“NAIDOC Week is a time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share their culture and for mainstream Australia to go out and ty some activities they don’t any other time of the year,” Fanning said.
Having been one of the first female indigenous role models in rugby league, Fanning has been excited to see other women take up the mantle as a mentor.
“To see the sort of role models that they are now, young girls from now on are always going to see opportunities in rugby league that perhaps in my day, no-one could see,” Fanning said.