Having travelled through 11 different municipalities and throughout England, the Mullagh Wills Foundation chose Queenscliff as the last destination of a message book that celebrates the original journey of Australia’s first Aboriginal Cricket team, which left from the town in 1868.
To mark the book’s arrival, Foundation members and dignitaries attended a traditional smoking ceremony and Queenscliff and Anglesea B-Grade cricket teams competed for a newly-struck Mullagh Wills shield on Saturday February 29.
“We saw the message book as an opportunity to talk about reconciliation through sport,” said Foundation Chair Jane Nathan.
“That book has now travelled the same journey as the original team and it is absolutely pivotal that it came to Queenscliff because this is where they left on that journey.”
“It was an extraordinary story and we have got the opportunity here today to say it’s done its journey,” Ms Nathan said.
With the Victorian Aboriginal Protectorate Board threatening to stop them leaving the country, the team of 13 Aboriginal cricketers, mostly from the Western District, boarded a boat from Queenscliff for a “fishing trip” but never returned.
They spent 125 days touring England and played cricket on 99 of them.
Ian Friend, an ancestor of Captain Charles Lawrence, who organised the fishing boat, showcased original photographs and momentos of the tour, including a cricket bat.
“It’s a great story and the thing is the tour was widely supported by everyone, it was only the Protectorate Board that said no,” he said.
“Queenscliff is a special part of the story because this is where the team left on a fishing trip to become Australia’s first international sporting team. When you think of it that way, it is really significant.”
Foundation co-founder and secretary Ian Coutts spoke to school children at the Borough’s three primary schools ahead of the official event.
“It’s a story that needs to be told and more people should know about it,” he said.
Queenscliffe Mayor, Ross Ebbels said he hoped the event would now be recognised annually, both with a cricket game, and through a broader celebration.
“We want to know more about our indigenous history and one way to do it is to start with this first Australian cricket team tour to England,” he said.