Two goalkeepers. Two proud Indigenous women. Westfield Matilda Lydia Williams sat down with Future Matilda and Indigenous Football Week Ambassador Jada Whyman to chat football and family, country and culture.
Their stories start on opposite sides of the continent and years apart, but Lydia Williams and Jada Whyman have many things in common - from their positions on the pitch to an immense pride in their people.
“The two tribes that I'm from are Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta. So Wiradjuri being my mum's side from Wagga and then Yorta Yorta, my dad's side which is Shepparton.” Whyman explained.
“Originally, I was born [in Katanning] and then lived in Kalgoorlie for 11 years. So my dad he was Noongar. So kind of southwest Western Australia, near Albany.” Williams said.
For both goalkeepers, NAIDOC Week presents an opportunity to celebrate that proud culture and stories, as well as having conversations and learning more.
“I guess it's a reminder to always look into your culture and really embrace it a little bit more than you probably do day to day, because a lot of it, was lost along the way.” Whyman said.
MORE: NAIDOC Week and Indigenous Football Week: Celebrating the contribution of indigenous peoples to football
“I just find with a lot of Indigenous people now, the young kids, they're always finding out. It's not that we know our own culture more, it’s we have to go do our own research or it's through our grandparents and our parents.”
Williams agreed that the information is often second hand or second generation. And with the passing of her father, Williams has relied on the stories of others to continue learning about her people and culture.
Like so many Indigenous families, both Williams and Whyman are connected to the Stolen Generations. It is a part of Williams’ story that she continues to learn more about with the help of her mum.
“My family's part of the Stolen Generation. So they got taken to missions and everything. When I went home it was pretty cool. Mum brought out all these documents of police reports of trying to find my uncles and my grandpop and great grandparents and trying to get them back in the missions and dad ran away and stuff. So it's just crazy that that actually happened in all these files and everything like that.” Williams said.
“My Pop was also part of the Stolen Generation. Well, he's the eldest of 14 kids. Two of my Pop’s siblings got taken.” Whyman shared.
“And I think they were only reconnected probably 10 years ago. My Pop’s 74 now. It's just insane that siblings still are just connecting with one another. But the best thing was they just lifted off straight away. They never felt like they left each other. And there was more love than anything there.”
Part of the continued learning and celebrating is a strong connection to the land.
Whyman recently returned from a lengthy stint on the sidelines with after doing her ACL only to injure the anterior cruciate joint in her shoulder. Despite the disappointment of not playing, Whyman took the opportunity to return home and re-connect with country.
“When I got injured. I went back home for eight weeks, and I don't think I've taken eight weeks away from soccer. It was the best thing I'd ever done for myself," Whyman said.
I just to go back and be in Wagga and just go out fishing every weekend or go camping. It's such a spiritual thing. And I guess connecting with the land. I don't know if many people get that, but it feels right.”
For Williams, her connection to the land and nature has played a role in so many parts of her life from work outside of football, to a natural curiosity about the world around her. She grew up with pet kangaroos and has a degree in zoo keeping.
“I think there’s a big spirituality with animals and that kind of thing. I love animals. I think they're just so interesting and cool. I find it really interesting learning stuff about that. I like to learn about things that I don't know, I feel like you can never stop learning and appreciating other people's point of views or different cultures and stuff.”
And Williams hopes that with a FIFA Women’s World Cup on home soil in 2023, there will be an opportunity to share and celebrate Australia’s Indigenous history through football.
“I'm excited for 2023 to have people come in and kind of experience not only the Australian culture, but also New Zealand because I feel like the Kiwis are really proud of where they've come from. And I think if we kind of embrace that same outlook, I think that's really exciting. I think football’s like a great way to do it”