Kaarla, the Nyoongar word for fire, will be emblazoned across the front of the Sinclair McDonald’s Rockingham Flames’ jerseys this weekend as the club and NBL1 celebrate Indigenous Australia as part of the league’s Indigenous Round for Naidoc Week, July 9-11.

Alex Ciabattoni in the specially-designed Indigenous Round jersey.

The Flames will wear the special jersey, when they take on the Willetton Tigers on Friday night and again on Saturday night when the men host the Geraldton Buccaneers, which was designed by City of Rockingham Councillor Rae Cottam, a proud Wongutha woman born on Nyoongar Boodja (country) in Rockingham and the first Indigenous person elected to the City’s council.

Cr Cottam said ‘kaarla’ was sacred to first nation’s people and she tried to reflect that in her design, which also “represents the Flames players travelling to play Willetton on Nyoongar Boodja and the Buccaneers travelling from Wajarri Barna”.

“The design represents the men and women’s teams meeting at the ribs on the front, and all the teams travelling so that the five players for each team can meet on the court,” Cr Cottam said.

“Fire is sacred because it is the giver of life, it provides warmth, it regenerates the land. It is important to ceremonies and togetherness; it cooks our food. Stories of why fire is so important vary from language to language and group to group, but there is an underlying meaning across all countries and I have tried to represent that in my work.”

Cr Cottam said she had originally planned to paint the design in an art pad or on a canvas but eventually created it digitally “because it was easier and allowed me to put as much detail in”, and drew on her own experiences as a first nations woman and her family life in its creation.

She said also realised the importance of the NBL1 West’s Indigenous Round in helping to educate the wider community and took to it in such a way as to ensure her design represented not only the Flames, but all local people, indigenous and non-indigenous, alike.

“The Flames’ colours suited so well to doing this piece because their colours match with indigenous art, which uses lots of reds and yellows and oranges,” she said.

“My mum is an artist and I have always been around art, whether that’s doing dot painting or drawing with a pencil. Art is in my family, it’s in my blood.

“These (indigenous) rounds in sport attract people who wouldn’t normally value the stories or culture of our people. They’re a good moment in time to understand our people and the stories that are sacred to us and as old as time.

“I get to shine a light on my culture and that brings me a great sense of pride. We don’t learn enough about the history, cultures and stories of our people in school, which has made it difficult for them to survive but survive they have.

“This round is a spotlight on us. Instead of dividing people it brings us together and reminds us we’re all on the same team and everyone is equal. So I wanted (my design) to say everyone in that jersey is equal and has an equal chance to perform on the court.”

The Flames women and men take on Willetton at Willetton Basketball Stadium from 6.30pm on Friday, and the men host the Geraldton Buccaneers at 7pm on Saturday.