Sonja Stewart Appointed Chair of Rugby Australia First Nations Committee

Wallabies squad member Andy Muirhead and back Reece Hodge have spoken to media after the unveiling of a new permanent First Nations feature on the gold jersey.

Rugby Australia has today confirmed that Ms Sonja Stewart has been appointed Chair of Rugby Australia’s First Nations Rugby Committee as it reaffirms its commitment to Australia’s First Nation peoples. 

A proud Yuin woman, Ms Stewart has been a Chairperson and Director of a diverse range of Boards and governing bodies for twenty years. She is currently the Chief Executive of the Law Society of NSW, and was formerly the Chief Executive of Arrilla Indigenous Consulting and a Deputy Secretary in the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

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An expert in governance, change management and strategy development, Stewart will lead Rugby Australia’s First Nations Committee as it continues to implement its strategic pillars and outcome statements: Cultural Respect, Health, Aspiration & Connection. 

The appointment also coincides with the Wallabies wearing their First Nations jersey in Townsville this Saturday night at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

Throughout the week, the team will be connecting with North Queensland’s First Nations communities as the team looks to engage and develop a greater understanding of Australia’s cultural history. 

The team also looks to be role models to the community, promoting the physical, social, and emotional health benefits of participating in team sports and engaging with the Australian Army’s Proud Warrior program to positively influence at-risk youth within Townsville.

Additionally, Rugby Australia’s national teams have also changed their digital profiles to reflect the Wallabies First Nations designs in support of the team, with a Rugby.com.au content series taking an in-depth look into the First Nations Australians who have previously worn the gold jersey, to further highlight their contribution to the game. 

Phil Waugh has also joined the First Nations Rugby Committee | Getty Images
Phil Waugh has also joined the First Nations Rugby Committee | Getty Images

At a recent meeting the Committee also appointed former Wallabies captain, Mr Phil Waugh, to the First Nations Rugby Committee as Rugby Australia’s Board representative as Rugby AU continues to improve opportunities for First Nations players to wear the gold jersey.

Rugby Australia Chief Executive Andy Marinos said: “It’s fantastic to welcome someone as qualified as Sonja to the role, and Rugby Australia is looking forward to continuing its work in promoting opportunities for Australia’s First Nations peoples We are also pleased to have a great former Wallaby and someone of Phil’s calibre join this committee and represent Rugby Australia.

“The appointment comes at a very important time, with the Wallabies set to wear their First Nations jersey in Townsville this week as well as engage in a range of activities making them active role models in the community.

“Our First Nations Rugby committee is an important advisory group, established in conjunction with the Lloyd McDermott Development Team, that guides everything we do in this space, and I can’t wait to launch our next schedule of initiatives in the near future,” Marinos said.

Incoming Chair, Sonja Stewart said: “I grew up in a Rugby family so it’s a real honour to be appointed as the Chair of the First Nations Rugby Committee. 

“It’s an exciting opportunity to work with Rugby Australia and the Lloyd McDermott team as we continue to build on the significant impact that First Nations players have had on our game, as well as help make it more accessible for new participants. 

“On behalf of the Committee I’d also like to thank my predecessor, Dr Terri Janke for everything she’s done for the Committee. The challenge is now for me to continue the meaningful work she’s started.”

President of the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team, Dean Duncan said: “Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team are excited about the appointment of Sonja Stewart as Chair of the First Nations Rugby Committee. 

“This will strengthen our partnership with Rugby Australia whilst creating greater access to the sport of rugby for all First Nations people.”

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