I am deeply saddened by the reports of racism at Hawthorn Football Club. My heart goes out to the families in these stories. As an Aboriginal woman and the leader of an organisation that has many Aboriginal staff and works with Aboriginal people across Victoria, we are filled with sorrow and grief about the trauma these players and their families were exposed to at the Hawthorn Football Club. The players cited in this story were a long way from home, Country and family, and should have been able to place their trust and safety in the hands of the club.
Marngrook is the native game of this place. It is a Woiwurrung word and was played by Aboriginal people across what is now called Victoria. It is a life blood of these lands. Our communities have always been an essential and visceral part of Australian football.
Unfortunately, I cannot be shocked by these revelations. In less than a decade we have seen the abuse of Adam Goodes, read stories of racism at Collingwood football club, and heard Eddie Betts speak of the pain of his treatment at the Adelaide Crows. Every time our people feel the same pain as our players. Every time that pain is compounded by the failure of the AFL and clubs to respond properly.
Despite leveraging our people to promote the game, the AFL and the clubs have repeatedly failed to respond to racism. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander players at community and AFL level report racial abuse on social media and at grounds almost every weekend. That this continues shows the game continues to fail our people.
The AFL needs to excise racism from the game, or it will no longer be our game.