When Jada Whyman first contemplated what it meant for her as an Indigenous woman to be playing on January 26, she considered how she could pay tribute to her culture and show solidarity with First Nations people.

The idea of playing on a date that for many Indigenous people represents loss – of sovereign rights to land, family and culture – did not sit comfortably with her.

“Other Indigenous footballers and I playing in the A-League Women originally had the idea of wearing boots that had Aboriginal designs by local artists,” the Sydney FC goalkeeper said.

“This was to symbolise the mobs we come from, with the intention to say that our culture is important to us, and we hope the culture of Australian football would have the confidence to acknowledge the pain of this date. 

“The idea of playing on the 26th feels wrong to me. I enjoy every time I get to step out onto the field but on this particular date it comes with a great deal of mourning for First Nations people.

“It’s not that I don’t think we should celebrate Australia Day at all, I just think a different date could reconcile a lot of pain that is felt by our mobs. 

“The 26th comes with a lot of loss and trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and I wonder if many people understand the history of it all.”

With Whyman side-lined through injury, conversations took place between the players of both Melbourne Victory and Sydney on how they could show solidarity with Jada and other Indigenous players, including Victory’s Gema Simon, and the broader Indigenous community.

What materialised was the decision for both sets of players to come together, holding the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags before kick-off.

“Seeing both teams come together to convey a message that means a lot to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community honestly brings a tear to my eye,” Whyman said.

“As players we represent the clubs we play for and the league we play in, but this statement also represents the land we play on. 

“The Big Blue is always a competitive game and so for both teams to put that aside and show that we stand as one for this message is one of the reasons I love this game so much.”

Victory midfielder Alex Chidiac said that the players coming together was a show of unity.

“It’s a small gesture to show the players are standing in solidarity with First Nations peoples and our peers,” Chidiac said.

“I spoke with Jada and Gema to understand what was important to them and how we could show our support on a really challenging day.

“I have been on a journey to better understand and educate myself and acknowledge I have a long way to go. What I’ve discovered is that it’s vital Indigenous voices are heard and their experiences respected.”