Dean Widders has long believed in the power of sport to drive positive change in race relations and culture.
Now he has explored that through the prism of film.
The Armidale native and former NRL player has turned his hand to filmmaking, developing a documentary which will be screened at next month's Sydney Film Festival.
Titled Araatika: Rise Up!, it centres around the push to create a First Nations Australian equivalent to the haka.
It is something Widders has long been passionate about and driving for, seeing it as a way to inspire not only the non-Indigenous, but also Indigenous Australians to want to learn more about Indigenous culture.
"A lot of non-Indigenous Australians in Australia, they don't know much about Aboriginal culture, and even our people don't know much about the true culture," he said, recalling how as a young kid he was never taught any dance, or language, or "any of that stuff" [about Indigenous culture].
"What they see is a lot of the behaviours and stuff that's living off the back of traumas and all that sort of stuff.
"I wanted to showcase true culture and for Aboriginal people to feel that they could connect to something really simple that gets them started on that journey."
Many years in the making, it was good mate and former junior footy foe, John Oehlers, who first planted the seed in Widders' mind. From there they worked on the concept for a few years to get the story ready to present to someone to take it further.
Initially they had no luck, but fortunately NITV came onboard.
The actual filming took about 18 months, with Widders travelling around and talking to a wide spectrum of people, from elders, to dance groups, to his own father, to prominent Indigenous sportsmen like Adam Goodes and Michael O'Loughlin, and non-Indigenous Australians and sportspeople such as Andrew Johns.
One of his motivations for the documentary was his own experience as part of the Australian Indigenous Dreamtime team that played the New Zealand Maori as the curtain raiser to the 2008 World Cup opening ceremony.
"We learnt this dance the night before and we had to perform it," Widders recalled.
"The Maori team does this great haka and then we do a dance that we only learnt the night before; we didn't really understand it and we didn't really know the story behind it."
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome in developing the dance was that there is "no dance that belongs to everyone".
"Everyone's got their own," Widders said.
"We wanted to use callings, shapes and formations that were universal right across all Indigenous Australia."
By his own admission Widders is not the "arty type". He said that performing the dance at Sydney Festival made him feel "really proud".
"I've never danced publicly before, never got painted up, never danced in front of a crowd like that, so it was a challenge, but we were that excited about it," he said.
"And it was on a significant day too, because it was the day before Australia day."
"It was good to dance on that night before, it was really spiritual."
Directed by Larissa Behrendt, the documentary will be screened at Event Cinemas, in George Street, Sydney on November 6-7, and will also be available through the On Demand portal from Friday November 12.
"For me, I'm really proud that the film's come together," Widders said. "It tells a story and I hope people watch it and they come closer together."
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