I must admit I was a bit surprised what Slido.com.au was at 10:00 at night coming out of Jacksons with Paul Oliver, was slipping and sliding going in there, but we managed to get here in one piece and that’s the main thing, so thank you to Paul. Paul was actually my PhD student, a very reluctant, recalcitrant PhD student, he was. But he got over the line in the end, thank you Paul and all the sponsors and organizers of this event. It’s great to see so many people turn out here and I’ve been here all week doing a number of things so it’s great to I supposed sort of wrap it up in terms of those things.
Okay, so I’m on here to basically talk about the Indigenous Past Players Association which is now, reason there’s a little asterisks there is there have been numerous actual name of it, we’ve actually had numerous committee meetings, we’ve got a secretary tearing it up now, so on and so forth. Des Headland is the chair, Derek Cuban is the vice chair. I from my students have been co-opted into a situation where I am basically herding cats with a shotgun on a dark night. By that I mean, the situation I found with the report launch, so we are now actually called the Indigenous Player Alliance, that’s to incorporate both current and past men and women. And we want to go down to second tier competitions, and we want to move this across to the NRL and other comps in terms of those things in order to enable and provide more autonomy and self-determining governance for indigenous people who play sport at the elite level and second tier competitions.
Just in terms of we can see a few of the shots taken on the day, they are still all wet. There’s Scott Chisholm who played for Melbourne and Freemantle and probably after the Michael Long incident of ’95, he was vilified by Damian Monkhorst. Scott’s probably got the next highest sort of profile in terms of where Peter Everett abused Scotty on the NCG, something he’s still scarred by in discussions with him about that.
So Scott on the morning of that, we had two days of committee meeting action where we were hold up in one of the conference rooms in Crown. There were 12 of us, all the other committee members. The only person who was not there was Katie Bentley who is there working with the IFL docker player, IFL women’s player, fantastic lady. And basically the morning of the launch of the report which came from the forum in Perth virtually this time last year. We’re waiting down at the lobby and the maxi-taxi had arrived, I did a quick headcount and we were one down. I looked around, Scott’s missing, Scott’s nowhere to be seen. I said to the group that was assembled. I said, what are we going to do? Scott’s not here? And Derek Kieghan said fuck him, let’s go to Etihad, if he’s not here, he’s not here.
Derek being from Tanin, which is a significant in our town, he speaks as he feels it, so I wasn’t going to tell Derek maybe 5 more minutes, he just said nope we’re going to Etihad and we’re going to launch this thing. So we get into the boardroom at Etihad, Gillen McGlocklin comes up in his French loafers and splendidly dressed, stands there, they’re all there. I was actually slouched up against the wall because there were no other chairs around, there was a beanbag but I wasn’t going to get into that, cause I knew I would never get out of it.
So basically, so Gillen is there, and he was saying, this report is fantastic, we were expecting a bit more of a wack, we didn’t get the wack, there was a lot of positive detail and it was all about welfare, well-being transition, and we said, yes that’s what it’s about, Gillen. He said it’s well written Sean, and I said well I have written 4 books.
So, kind of like, it broke the ice, but the breaker of the ice, the real breaker of the ice, cause Scott still is not there, Scott is still missing in action. I get a phone call. It’s Scott, where are you? Oh, I went and got a haircut. I said you what? You went and got a haircut. This is a guy that when we went on the plane in Perth had knee high tan Ugg boots and a Black Panther t-shirt on. I shit you not, this is happening in real time. Des Headland says you’re not wearing that on the plane surely. He goes, I don’t want to get a cold. So this is how Scott works.
So we all assemble, I get him up there, he’s all smiles, we’re all cool. We head on down to Eddyhead Stadium and the next thing I hear is, (air sound). There’s Scott he’s got another boomerang and is throwing it around Etihad. We’re going oh my god! He’s going to clock someone in the head, he’s going to clock Gillen in the head, he’s going to die. And the next thing, Gillen, Gillen approached Scott. Said, how do I do that? So Scott in his Black Panther t-shirt on and his knee high, he didn’t have the Ugg boots. And he threw it around again and caught it, so it was this cultural exchange in real time that was going on with regards to a simple thing like a boomerang. And I don’t know, cause we weren’t there for the afternoon cause we all headed off to lunch after, and apparently Gillen had a smile on his face all day because of it and was high fiving everyone. He was really pumped because of this positive thing which was going on.
So that was a couple of months ago now. The reason he was handing the thing over to Bullen was because he’s the spokesperson and as I said, Des and Derek are the chair and co-chair of the indigenous player alliance, we’ve got a twitter feed. But it is still known as the indigenous past player association, so we have some change there. Made some great progress so check that out.
Okay, so the quote that is at that the top of that slide. I am sorry that it’s text heavy as opposed to the million (?) was with all the photographs, just to give you a sense of things.
Sport has been our biggest ally. It has opened the eyes of thousands and changed people’s minds. It’s made them think about things. Okay, from my book Legends on the Indigenous Team from Marco Rawl, and it’s true, which is kind of like the prestige of Colin Taxes position as many of you know, Colin’s work, it’s the way that sport has been able to disarm and provide a space for Aboriginal (?) people more broadly and now obviously multi-cultural Australians to come into a space and we’ll go into when I was teaching, I was teaching in my undergrad units, that first thing I would say if I was a migrant coming to Australia for the first time, I would become a Colin Wood member on the first day I got there.
As a means to try and exact or explain the important of football more broadly because I am more of a football follower than NRL and cricket has lost me a bit. So, football is the way I talk with my son, it’s the way I talk with my mates, it’s the way we engage.
And a whole range of things, everything from picking up his wet towel on the floor, and the ways we have to have respect. Nutrition, training, application, agency, so on and so forth, this is the way we talk with my friends and my family.
So the situation about the contribution to the Aboriginal and (??) football’s has made to the Australian football league is undeniable. And I can mention, we can rattle off the total (?). You’ve all got your favorite players by and large, we have Hawthorne people, we’ll have (?8:09) and Shawny Bernine and Lance Franklin who is the main key player of the competition. Dale Keekit. You know them, we can all think of those wonderful moments of joy that we got in terms of football more broadly and even if we can extend that out to the NRL. And by and large, they seem to be the Aboriginal players.
So, those things are undeniable, we know those things, yeah?
What is perhaps less understood in terms of those things is their experiences of indigenous footballs during their careers and transitions out to the AFL. I was having so many discussions with players I’ve been very lucky to have good ins to the players association and the AFL with the work that I’ve done. Pippa Grange was the person that enabled that initially before she head overseas and did the things that she was doing.
And to have those discussions with players for things like indigenous all-stars camp. Next year in February we are actually going to get all the past players that we can find along with the current day players to have a massive summit in Adelaide where the all stars camp will be held.
That will be big. Really big.
So the situation that I was finding myself in is I was having constant discussions with players that were either transitioning out or who were playing and there was issues around a whole bunch of stuff, primarily money, managing money, managing family, how you deal with that, particularly if you have situations where Des Headland says it best, we addressed the freemantle board the other day and Des said, look when I was first drafted a rookie I was on $60k a year and my family thought I was a millionaire. And he said, not just as a concept, they thought I was a millionaire.
Well, so when you’ve got as we’ve talked about issues around adversity, connections with money and all those sorts of things, when you are the first earner for your family by and large, that is how you are seen. So, based on 25 interviews, there would have been 30 but we had to cut some Nicky was one of them, we took a crack of others, Phil doesn’t like flying and Jim, Jimmy was up north working. Goodsey had a paid gig, Davey Jones, which you can’t discount that. And I forget who the other person was, it will come to me.
So we had 25 players. Some players had played 2 seasons, other players had played 16. Some were medaled and had apprenticeships coming out of apprenticeships, others had not had much of a career at all in terms of injury and so on and so forth, so there was a range of experiences, which is what we needed.
So, at the end of October in 2017, we did a bunch of interviews, the whole deal was we crammed, tried to get some money out of Curtain Union at the time that I was working and didn’t get very far despite much, much discussion and much pleading. I actually had one of the admin ladies in the humanities come up and said if this thing goes for 2 days, you think they would want morning and afternoon tea?
What do you reckon? What do you reckon? I reckon they would. I would, I reckon you would too. So Curtain didn’t get it despite the fact that they beat they chest long and hard about how good they are on a whole range of fronts when it comes to those things, when simple things like that present themselves, they couldn’t do a damn thing. I am no longer there.
I’ve decided to concentrate a lot of my efforts into this thing, because it’s so important and the discussions I’ve been having with a whole bunch of people from the AFL, PA, West Farmers, Quantus, Boston Consulting Group, Acore Hotels, everyone is behind this. So all we’ve got to do is get a bank account come in to buy a guarantee which will happen the first of November, as a non-profit.
So the findings from the reports suggest, and if anyone wants to send me an email I’m happy to send you a copy of that, suggest the experiences of Aboriginal and (?) players are unique within the code do the socio- cultural factors and we can say socio- cultural economic factors and as such, it is important that sectors within the industry such as player agents—there are some horror stories coming out from players who have had long careers and their agents just did not look after them at all.
Club administrators, clubs themselves, there’s still slippages there. Past player groups, the AFL and the PA, they need to start to work more collaboratively, more synchronized, this seems to be, you know what we do this over here, we do that over there. We don’t do that type of thing, this is what we do.
You shouldn’t be in this space, this is what we are up to, so on and so forth. It needs to be a greater effort and that with the efforts of the people that we’ve been talking with within the PA and AFL are now starting to get that and it’s through this sort of stuff that we are doing, that we are doing that is coming together. It’s through those honest discussions. Well what can’t you do? And we only have to go to the situation of someone like Shane Aaron who committed suicide after a couple years of having dealt with a whole bunch of stuff around assaults, which he was found not guilty for. A couple of breaking and enters and so on and so forth, played a handful of games with Freemantle as a mature age player, was a fantastic forward player. And committed suicide, I was actually at his funeral.
Northern, which is where the Davis’ are from, young Davis, great Leon Davis, that’s where, this is an epicenter of a serious recruitment area within western Australia.
There was a number of players, young players who played at the elite level who had been self-harming. So, these discussions when we have these sorts of discussions need to be honest and frank. They also need to be with a great sense of care involved in them and so the situations again I was having over a period of time, enabled me to frame out the questions to the players so the instrument, or the questions we asked them were very simple. Very clear, which then fed into the clarity of the report that the AFL and PA were given.
So I suppose in terms of the desired outcomes for Aboriginal peoples until quite recently, Australian football provided a rare avenue to escape oppressive government interference in their lives to gain some degree of social acceptance in integral Australian society. The chance for economic independence. Something a lot of us take for granted.
For this reason many indigenous communities have a deep understanding and appreciation of Australian football, and so because of this, it makes the code much more than a game.
For Aboriginal people Australian football has become deeply entangled in their social political struggle for civil rights, land rights and the cultural right to remain distinctive people within a contemporary Australian nation state, dominated by non-indigenous peoples, values and laws.
It is from this struggle in the past and future victories can be understood with greater salience and with time these victories, those victories can provide an example of hope so that other pathways may be taken just as those indigenous pioneers did with each game they played and every kick that went through the goals.
So it’s trying to take that macro and the micro, the big story, the individual story and to bang it in together.
Say okay, what is working and what is not? So what I would suggest in the last sort of 4 points is in order to do these things, increase participation of indigenous people across the industry and not just playing, so on all levels, and I know it’s been discussed til the cows come home about getting more commentators in. I was with Gillen and Gilbert McAdam on Tuesday afternoon, we were all there for dinner. Tanya Harsh, Magic McClane and Sherry Colins, now Gilley was fantastic on the (?) shades, lost something of a snap I think since he’s been gone, but they rolled him out for the indigenous round this year on channel 7, he’s fantastic. Why just have him for one round, why not roll him out for the rest of the season? Give him a contract for next year.
So those things need to happen more and the training need to be there. The resources need to be there and they should be. Advocacy. So in terms of the IPA we want to advocate on a whole range of different levels, again from club land all the way up through agents, recruiters so and so forth.
Increased awareness and education of the industry. Using football stories and data to do this. I love telling football stories, cause what it does is it helps disarm, and demystify a whole bunch of stuff. So if said, okay, we’re going to do a lecture today on the Stalin generation a lot of people would go, oh God not again. Or at least my students would. So I go, okay, let’s tell the story as Sydney Jackson. Story about Sydney Jackson, well you should buy Legends Indigenous Team of the Century and read about his story. Why it has not been turned into a film has got me buggered.
Amazing story. Amazing story! Pauley Farmer story incredible. These sorts of things should be resonating with us. Constantly so when we go to the game, when we got to the MCG, when we see these players we can understand their legacy. In a much greater way.
And to increase Aboriginal capacity and agency that’s the key for me. Agency. Talking to comp players who don’t understand what their agency is despite the fact they were earning $500,000 a year. They are in great contracts and having a great life, but still don’t understand the importance of their agency.
And that’s me done I think.