Australian TV host Megan Waters will never forget her ‘shameful’ mistake

Megan Waters looks back with a sense of shame at her younger self.

The co-host of Yokayi Footy — a show that celebrates the contribution of Indigenous Australians to the sport — is a proud Larrakia woman from Darwin but admits she wasn’t always so immersed in her culture.

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Waters’ grandfather is part of the Stolen Generation but she didn’t fully grasp the history behind white settlement in Australia and the impact it had on her people. It wasn’t something she learnt about in school, and it’s why she used to celebrate Australia Day on January 26, oblivious to the trauma associated with that date.

“I’m so proud to be Indigenous and the fact that I celebrated Australia Day in the past is almost something I’m shameful about,” Waters tells as the AFL prepared to launch Sir Doug Nicholls Round this year. “Acknowledging that was definitely a mistake in the past.

“It was almost skimmed over (at school), which is no wonder why so many people are so – I don’t want to say ignorant because not everyone is – but just unaware of why Australia Day isn’t a day to celebrate.”

Moving from Darwin to Melbourne as a 19-year-old only intensified the gap between Waters and her heritage. Whereas in the Northern Territory she feels connected to the land and to her people, Melbourne’s capital was a “sheltered little bubble” where the issues facing Indigenous Australians could be kept at arm’s length.

In an Instagram post earlier this year, Waters said “celebrating a day that glorifies violence and genocide against First Nations people” is “a mistake that I’ll never make again” — and she means it. As she got more mature, she started to see societal issues in a different light.

While it was an accumulation of experiences that led Waters to regret celebrating Australia Day in the past, she speaks about a light bulb going off when she realised things needed to change.

“Once I got out of school and as I just was older and more mature, I was able to do my own research. As I got older and started listening to certain things, seeing these rallies on TV and becoming curious and wondering, ‘Oh what? Why’,” Waters says.

“It didn’t take me long to realise, ‘Holy s**t, I’ve been going against what my culture is all this time’. Once I had that light bulb moment, there’s no turning back.

“It wasn’t until I was at a mature age, spending time back home, seeing the impact in the Territory that, let’s call it inter-generational trauma, has created for our people in terms of alcohol, drugs, violence, abuse — it wasn’t until my eyes were opened to that, that the bus hit me and I was like, ‘Wow, OK, this is really serious’.

“Education, conversation and just awareness is the key to creating these positive changes.”

Twist of fate leads Waters to TV

A post shared by Megan Waters (@megzyy_)

It was a twist of fate that landed Waters alongside Tony Armstrong in the co-host chair of Yokayi Footy, which is broadcast on AFL streaming services as well as NITV and SBS. Entrenched in the fitness industry, one of her clients worked on the show and suggested she apply for a role that had become available.

With no prior experience in the media or TV, Waters took a punt and it paid off. Now, she gets to embrace Indigenous Australians’ contribution to a sport she loves.

“What the amazing thing Yokayi Footy does is provide Indigenous players, both present and past, the opportunity to share their stories, to inspire,” Waters says. “We’re so lucky with Yokayi Footy to have the greats of the game, Indigenous heroes like Gilbert McAdam, Darryl White, Andrew Krakouer on the show … sharing their history.

“Having that perspective and then on the flip side of that having these young male and female people on the show sharing their stories and seeing how much has changed over time — and don’t get me wrong, there’s still a humungous way to go — but the fact that Yokayi Footy provides that platform of story, both past and present heroes of the game, is amazing.

“I’m so grateful the AFL has embraced us and enabled us to share that on such a huge platform.

“I’m really grateful that I have the opportunity and a voice and platform I can use to educate and speak up on things that really matter … in the most respectful way possible.”

Indigenous Round is absolutely awesome–yYh4wl/

A post shared by Megan Waters (@megzyy_)

Sadly, Covid-19 has hit Victoria again and the AFL, but that hasn’t stopped the awesome celebration of Indigenous culture and its impact on footy.

Sir Doug Nicholls kicked off in Round 11 — albeit with Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs playing in front of empty stands at Marvel Stadium — and has stretched into this weekend too. Teams are rocking their special Indigenous guernseys and even though the traditional Dreamtime game between Richmond and Essendon has been moved from the MCG because of coronavirus, a near sell-out is expected at Perth’s Optus Stadium tonight, such is the popularity of the annual fixture.

Sir Doug Nicholls Round is easily Waters’ favourite time of the footy season. A mad Bombers fan, she’ll be hoping Essendon gives the Tigers a touch-up in the West but the entire concept is about far more than just results.

“It’s such a celebration. Every year it rolls around and I’m always so excited to see our culture being represented and celebrated in that way,” she says.

“It’s definitely taken a long way for us to get to where we are today and there’s such a huge way to go, but it’s a round that as an Indigenous woman fills me with a hell of a lot of pride.

“I’m sure that I speak for all Indigenous people to see our culture be celebrated on such a humungous platform nationally, but also globally — this is a round that people tune into from all around the world — so it’s very special.”

Indigenous Sport Month will highlight the athletic and moral heroism of Indigenous athletes, but also the moments that inspire, signify progress, and bring change.

The goal of Indigenous Sport Month is to engage, educate and empower all Australians on the successes, challenges and triumphs of Indigenous athletes.

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