Thunderbirds 2022 Indigenous Design seizes netball Inspiration, connection and embracing culture

The artwork for the Adelaide Thunderbirds Indigenous Dress was designed by local artist Shane Mankitya Cook in collaboration with students from Netballs SA’s Aboriginal Netball Academy.

Over a number of workshops, Students explored and created artwork on what netball meant to them and the role it plays within the community. Their designs were the inspiration for Shane Mankitya Cook’s final indigenous artwork.


The iconic tree is symbolic of life, while its roots represent grassroots netball and the Aboriginal Netball Academy. The trunk symbolises Netball SA and the pathways to elite netball is embodied in the leaves.

Featuring on the design is a handprint of Mahleaha Buckskin. Mahleaha was the first person to be raised speaking Kaurna language from birth in over 100 years. The words also included in the design “Wikaparntu Paitya” translated from the Kaurna language means “Netball is Deadly”.

The colours for the dress represent the teams’ grassroots with pink for the Thunderbirds and red for Netball SA.

For Shane Mankitya Cook, the highlight of the process for him was “Seeing the students connect with the Thunderbirds athletes has meant more to me than anything – sharing culture is what it’s all about,” Mr Cook said.

“You can’t be what you can’t see so I think it’s really important for their own development as young netballers to connect with the Thunderbirds and see what they could one day become.”

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