Clubs need to be in on the conversation against racism

WORDS are powerful. Often words carry a greater impact than you may first realise.

Sure, there is the old cliché that actions speak louder than words and, when it comes to the AFL indigenous round and AFL Goldfields indigenous and multicultural variation, that cliché is true to an extent.

Awareness and recognition is generated by the amazing indigenous-design jumpers teams are wearing, the ceremonies and walks to the MCG.

But it still comes back to words.

These actions generate important discussion whether you agree with the points raised or not.

It took courage for Sydney Swan and former North Ballarat Rebel Adam Goodes to speak out – prominently – against racism and detailing vilification inflicted on him.

Closer to Ballarat, it took courage for Rokewood-Corindhap’s Aaron Clarke to approach the Grasshoppers to make a stand on indigenous awareness, sparking the club to issue all senior football and netball teams with special indigenous-designed jumpers and dresses.

By speaking up, Goodes and Clarke give voice to an issue that has not gone away. Clarke, speaking in The Courier’s FootyHQ online video, did not want his children to grow up hearing the sorts of words from a supporter that crippled him in a clash against Illabarook in the Central Highlands Football League last

season.

He has felt racial taunts all his life but said that incident was the worst ever. He chose to take positive action.

Fellow indigenous Grasshopper Deborah Milena was quick to offer backing.

“Racism is an issue that needs to be tackled in all forms of life basically ... if we can raise awareness about the impact of racism, the better off we’ll be as a community,” Milena said.

AFL Goldfields is tackling racism head-on with words in the formation of a steering committee. Such discussion will form processes to proactively prevent all forms of racism.

The Ballarat and Maryborough Castlemaine football netball leagues have combined indigenous and multicultural-themed rounds to strengthen the all-inclusive message about clubs.

AFL Goldfields wants to foster the potential to unearth the AFL’s next Majak Daw or Lin Jong.

It was surprising to receive online comments on a story about this initiative that deemed it useless. 

These were comments that spouted equality and spruiked talk that drawing attention to racism implied that “we” are of a different race to our indigenous population, when “we” really were all the same “human race”.

So should “we” - the we used implied the general populous – just sweep it under a rug and play ignorant?

melanie.whelan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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