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Indigenous History in the AFL & Racism

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Asha Stubbs

on 9 October 2013

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Transcript of Indigenous History in the AFL & Racism

Indigenous History in the AFL & Racism

Nicky Winmar
20 years ago (1993) St Kilda player Nicky Winmar drew a line in the sand in attempt to make a stand against racism.

It was a match at Victoria Park against Collingwood. Winmar and first gamer Gilbert McAdam, another Aboriginal player for St Kilda, made a pact to make a stand against racism. They emerged from the race, next to the Collingwood cheer squad and the racial abuse hurled at the two Aboriginal players from the moment they emerged was offensive and hostile.

St Kilda won that day and as the siren sounded Winmar found himself near the Collingwood cheer squad, and instinctively, spontaneously, lifted his St Kilda Guernsey, pointed to his bare brown skin and declared: ''I'm black - and I'm proud to be black!''

The importance of Winmars gesture on that day is impossible to overstate. It is etched into the AFL’s and Australia’s history. Winmar is now a poster boy for reconciliation in the AFL.

(Gordon, 2013)
History of the AFL
Australian football was born in 1858 with the first recorded match between Scotch College and Melbourne Grammar School (Blainey, 2010). Tom Wills is credited with creating the game and there are many theories as to where the idea originated from.

Some believe that it originated from the Aboriginal game Marngrook; which was played by Aboriginal groups of men throughout Victoria. The ball was often made of twine formed using the twisted hair of a possum (Australian Sports Commission, 2009).

Aboriginal Players
Indigenous players presence in the Australian Football League (AFL) has dramatically grown in the past few decades, however there is no doubt that Aboriginal players starred at the game long before the 1980’s.

Joe Johnson was the first known player of Aboriginal descent at AFL level. He played 55 games for Fitzroy, including two premierships (AFL, 2002).

Players of Aboriginal descent currently make up approximately 10% of the AFL list. To date there have been 195 players known to be of Aboriginal descent who have played AFL football and in 2013 there are 68 players of Aboriginal descent on AFL lists (AFL Community, 2013).

Player Achievements
Geelong’s Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, who revolutionised the game with his use of the Handball.

Three Brownlow Medals: Gavin Wanganeen, Essendon (1993) and Adam Goodes, Sydney (2003 & 2006).

Three AFL Rising Star awards: Byron Pickett, Kangaroos (1998), Adam Goodes,
Sydney (1999) and Danyle Pearce, Port Adelaide, (2006).

Six Norm Smith Medals: Maurice Rioli, Richmond (1982); Peter Matera, West Coast
(1992); Michael Long, Essendon (1993); Andrew McLeod, Adelaide (1997 and
1998), Byron Pickett, Port Adelaide (2005).

There have also been approximately 33 Indigenous premiership players.

(AFL, 2002)

Overcoming Racism
Unfortunately, for Aboriginal players to excel at Australian Football they have had to overcome many barriers. Overcoming barriers such as racial prejudices and a lack of cultural awareness has taken a great amount of courage.

With the innovations such as the AFL’s Racial and Religious Vilification Rule and the leadership of many individual players the football community has had an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the issues confronting Aboriginal players in the sport.

Indigenous players, heritage and culture is celebrated annually when the AFL host Indigenous round.

(AFL, 2002)

Michael Long & Michael McLean
In the 1995 ANZAC day match Essendon’s Michael Long was racially abused by Collingwood’s Damian Monkhorst. Mediation following the game between Long and Monkhorst failed. It was time for change.

Michael Long went to fellow Indigenous player Michael McLean for support just two weeks after the ANZAC day clash. McLean became the spokesman for Indigenous cause and later told The Australian Newspaper that Indigenous players would start naming and shaming racist footballers.

Following this Long and McLean met with the AFL and said that Indigenous footballers would be lost to the game if the league did not take action.

(Ralph, 2011)

Nothing changed after the Nicky Winmar incident. Racial taunts and abuse were still frequent on and off the field………..
Moments through History…………
•In 1991 Tony Shaw said ''I'd make a racist comment every week if I thought it would help win the game.''

•In 1991 Collingwood president Allan McAlister infamously said that “Aboriginal people were welcome at his club as long as they conducted themselves like white people.”

(Baum, 2003 & Wilson, 2013)

AFL’s Racial and Religious Vilification Rule
In 1995 the AFL introduce a rule against racial vilification. The AFL is determined to send a strong message that such behaviour is not acceptable.

The rule was extended upon in 1997 to include conciliation, education and confidentiality. Further extension of the rule in 2009 to prohibit vilification on the basis of race, religion, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin to also prohibit vilification on the basis of a special disability (which includes a disease or illness) or sexual orientation, preference or identity.

Further information on process, rules and penalties can be found at: http://www.afl.com.au/news/2009-05-31/racial-and-religious-vilification

(AFL, 2009)

More Recent Events…….
Adam Goodes & Eddie McGuire
Despite the awareness raised through individual players and the introduction of the racial vilification rule there are still issues occurring within the game today. Most recently earlier this year (2013) during Indigenous round.

Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes was racially abused by a thirteen year old girl during their win against Collingwood. The repercussions of this event went from bad to worse with Collingwood President Eddie McGuires gaffe linking Goodes to the Melbourne musical King Kong.

The Following videos show a greater insight of the events that took place:

The Question that needs to be asked is……..
How Far Have We Really Come?
It is quite clear that we have come a long way already but there is still so much further to go. Individual stands from players such and Nicky Winmar and Michael Long have led to a better environment Indigenous football players.

There is no doubt that Indigenous players are having a significant impact on today’s game and will continue to do so in the many years of Australian Football to come.

Where to From Here
The AFL has an opportunity to play a crucial role in ending racism. Sport, especially Australian Football, has such power within the Australian community.

Education is the key to most things, including putting a stop to racism. By educating our young people that racism has no place within our community and especially no place in sport.

AFL (2002). AFL Fact Sheet #18, Influence of Aboriginal Players. Retrieved from http://mm.afl.com.au/Portals/0/afl_docs/Influence_of_Aboriginal_Players.pdf
AFL (2009). Racial and religious vilification. Retrieved from http://www.afl.com.au/news/2009-05-31/racial-and-religious-vilification
AFL Community. (2013). About AFL and the Indigenous Community. Retrieved from http://aflcommunityclub.com.au/index.php?id=727
Australian Sports Commission. (2009). Yulunga: Traditional Indigenous Games. Canberra: Australian Government. Retrieved from http://www.ausport.gov.au/participating/indigenous/resources/games_and_activities/full_resource
Blainey, G. (2010). A Game of Our Own: The Origins of Australian Football. Melbourne, VIC: Black Inc.
Baum, G. (2003, June 3). Aborigines win acceptance as football's future. The Age.
Gordon, M. (2013, April 16). The day Nicky Winmar drew the line. The Age.
Rahlph, J. (2011, June 29). It took two brave men to change footy’s racial horizons. The Herald Sun.
Wilson, C. (2013, April 20). Revisiting past controversy on racial taunts. The Sydney Morning Herald.

Education through Pedagogy
Lesson plan idea’s for teaching students about the AFL’s history of indigenous players and the battle of overcoming racism:

All of the below ideas could be adapted to suit students anywhere from upper primary to year ten. The research project and physical activity is more suited to seconday school students. Whilst using the picture books would be more suited to upper primary.

•Research project: Students could select an indigenous AFL player to research. They could have to focus on their life before football, career highlights, and any battles with racism on or off the sporting field to produce a report and a talk to the class. Extension upon that could be creating interview questions for that player and sending the questions through the club. If given response students could write up an article type paper on the interview.

•Picture books: There are many picture books that provided a direct link for students between Indigenous people and football by looking at the games history such as Marngrook: The Long Ago Story of Aussie Rules written by Titta Secombe and illustrated by Grace Fielding or Kick it to me written by Neridah McMullin & illustrated by Peter Hudson. These books provide excellent opportunities to discuss with students the history of the game. Follow up activities could include: Research marngrook and produce a poster comparing it to the modern game, choose your favourite part of the book and write about the illustration and the content. More activities can be accessed at: www.magabala.com/media/wysiwyg/pdf/Marngrook.pdf

•Physical activity: In a physical activity setting you could play both the current code of AFL and margrook. Following this you could compare the codes with students by discussing similarities and differences. You could also engage students in many other Indigenous gams available from: http://www.ausport.gov.au/participating/indigenous/resources/games_and_activities
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