Richmond’s recent trip to Rio de Janeiro had more depth and importance than just a cultural experience. Along with the nine Richmond players, two young Indigenous men were also part of the travelling group.

Darren Allen and Derek Hayes, both aged 18, were selected for the trip as part of the Lagunta’s TAC Cup squad, piloted in 2013. Their participation was made possible with the support of Rio Tinto, who provided funding for their engagement and representation with Rio Tinto’s Indigenous program specialist, James Sebire attending.

The two young men were selected because of their leadership capacity, observed during their participation in the Lagunta’s program, which was delivered in partnership with AFL Victoria, the KGI and Richmond Football Club.

The Rio project called ‘Changing the Score’, explored how the role of sport can bring communities and cultures together, and was organised by RMIT, Bluestone Edge and Global Reconciliation, in partnership with Richmond, the KGI and the Brazilian Institute for Innovations in Social Health (IBISS).

Both Richmond and the KGI work to provide opportunities for young Indigenous people to grow and emerge into community leaders and engage in education and training pathways.

The experience has allowed all of the participants, including Hayes and Allen to learn about Brazilian culture and life, and also understand how their experiences might be used to explore social inclusion with Indigenous and multicultural communities, as well as disadvantaged groups upon their return.

Belinda Duarte, Director of the Korin Gamadji Institute said the similarities of the Indigenous and Brazilian culture helped Hayes and Allen to feel comfortable in sharing some of their experiences.

“What they provided was an opportunity to share their own cultural learning from where they come from, but also celebrate through their dance, war cry and telling stories,” Duarte said.

“To see some of the boys (Richmond players) be unbelievably proud of sharing those stories and embracing our country’s culture is pretty special for us,” she said.

Both Hayes and Allen, along with Richmond’s Shane Edwards and Rio Tinto’s James Sebire performed the war cry, an Indigenous dance performed before battle or competition, as a part of the AFL Indigenous program activity, for some of the local people in Rio.

Allen said the experience made him realise that other cultures can appreciate the unique Indigenous performance.

“I’ll be able to take that (experience) back home and tell family and friends that there are people out there that do care about our culture,” Allen said.

Duarte also expressed that after the Rio trip, the players as well as Hayes and Allen can continue to develop their leadership, and use AFL as a vehicle to connect with so many different people

“The power of the AFL and how we use that brand to enable opportunities is really crucial,” she said.

Changing the Score was supported by Karoon Gas, Rio Tinto, Costa Foundation, Drapac Group and B2B Lawyers.

Darren Alen and Derek Hayes were selected from the Laguntas program to participate in the Rio trip

Darren Alen and Derek Hayes were selected from the Laguntas program to participate in the Rio trip