Our history and heritage

We keep the ball in motion

Young Redfern All Blacks players, Jonathan Silva and Shyla Miller-Mundine, on championing togetherness in Australia's oldest Aboriginal rugby league club.

CCS-19443 First Nations - SSH articles - 5

This article is part of a series by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living and working on Gadigal land. The series, a joint project of South Sydney Herald and the City of Sydney, is curated by Wiradjuri woman Aunty Norma Ingram.

Redfern All Blacks (RAB), part of the South Sydney District Junior Rugby Football League, is the oldest Aboriginal rugby league club in Australia. The club was founded in 1938 when Aboriginal people were fighting to be counted as Australian citizens. RAB was and remains important to many Aboriginal people. While the first team were all men, the now 19 teams are made up of both men and women, girls and boys. Their theme song is ‘We keep the ball in motion’.

In 1973, RAB was one of the 7 founding member clubs that formed the NSW Koori Knockout, held annually on the October long weekend. The Knockout now has over 180 teams. The winning team earns hosting rights for the following year.

These are 2 of the young Aboriginal Redfern All Blacks players.

RAB players Jonathan Silva and Shyla Miller-Mundine. Photo by Margaret Haumono
RAB players Jonathan Silva and Shyla Miller-Mundine. Photo by Margaret Haumono

Jonathan Silva is the grandson of Barbara Silva Wiradjuri, a member of the Ingram family from Cowra and Mac Silva a Kempsey Dhungatti man. The Ingram and Silva families are well known members of the local community.

Jonathan grew up in Waterloo, one of 10 children. He attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and then Alexandria Park Community High School. He started playing for RAB at the age of 12.

Indeed, he loves all kinds of sport, particularly the RAB football and All Blacks basketball. He has attended the local youth centres and has loved to do the boxing sessions.

Shyla Miller-Mundine said, “My mother, Kelly Miller, is a Wiradjuri woman from Griffith and my father is Cyril Mundine, a Bundjulung man from Baryulgi.

“I grew up in Waterloo and now I live on The Block at Redfern. I went to Our Lady of Mount Carmel School and then Alexandria Park Community School. I started playing for RAB from Under 6s, then to Under 11s – and that was against the boys!

“I just love playing football. I am so proud when I put the RAB guernsey on and I love the history. I played representative football at South Sydney Rabbitohs for the Tarsha Gail Cup in 2022/3.

“For girls who are currently playing rugby league football, just stay there! We need you to make the change from thinking the game is only for boys. For those great women and girls who would like to play, get to it! It’s about the friendships you make and the pride of being a part of a great football team.”

This article originally appeared in the South Sydney Herald.

Learn more about Aboriginal culture and history at the Sydney Barani website.

Published 25 October 2023, updated 27 October 2023