THE issue of race relations in Australia has evolved almost from white settlement, yet so slowly that it remains incredibly vexing for most.
As we hear from Aboriginal leader Ted Lovett today, racism still exists to extents far beyond the levels many Australians would hope and believe.
It comes after Mr Lovett and another prominent Aboriginal leader, Geoff Clark, were abused at a Ballarat Football League final last year. It was revealed this week that two Melton South supporters have been banned from attending games after an investigation into the incident.
Considerable steps have been made to create awareness of Aboriginal culture, history and contributions to our society in a much more meaningful and committed fashion during the past decade.
Sport, and in particular football, has played a leading role in tackling issues of racism and cultural understanding and the mere fact that the BFL took action against the Melton South supporters is a sign that abuse will not be tolerated.
The fact that so much discussion continues to surround racial issues in the Australian football environment is further proof that this community – a fair reflection of our greater society – will not accept abuse of this type.
Questions will be asked about just how the BFL and other leagues might police abuse – whether it be racial or otherwise – between spectators in the future. While there are examples of leagues punishing players for abuse, and supporters for abusing players or umpires, the precedent set by a league imposing penalties on spectators for abusing each other is going to be difficult to implement.
Anyone who has been to a suburban or rural footy ground will know that sometimes the banter can go overboard and that tempers flare. Just where the line is drawn in the league intervening may be difficult to determine and even more cumbersome to administer.
The bigger issue is where football and society goes from here in stamping out racism. While we applaud steps that have been taken, we lament that abuse based on race remains commonplace.
That the incident which made news this week involved Mr Lovett and Mr Clark, who are well known, is almost irrelevant in discussing what comes next. What it does show is that we are moving to a space where what we have accepted in the past we will not in the future.