I have been a lifelong Hawthorn FC fan and I played for Fremantle FC in their first season.
I support Hawthorn with my heart and Fremantle with my soul because it’s part of who I am.
On Wednesday morning, like many people, I opened the news app on my phone and what I read about Hawthorn shocked me to the core.
I was stunned and confused as the series of allegations against Hawthorn Football Club unfolded.
It took some determination to read through the many published histories to try to understand what allegedly happened over a period of time. Many of these allegations are reprehensible and, if found to be true, should be treated accordingly.
However, there are a number of considerations that must be taken into account before passing judgment. They are:
1. The courage of the indigenous people involved who came forward knowing that in today’s age of social media they could be attacked and made to feel like they had done wrong.
They need incredible cultural, mental and spiritual support to heal themselves from the hurt they are currently feeling.
2. Hawthorn Football Club initiated this independent review which led to these findings. They should be commended for having the courage to bring in an independent consultant to investigate the allegations and issue a written report without fear or favour.
Rather than try to sweep everything under the rug, Hawthorn referred the report to the AFL’s integrity department.
They would know that doing so would tarnish Hawthorn’s famous brand as a ‘family club’, perhaps forever.
They have a lot of work to do to regain the trust and respect of indigenous and non-indigenous people. Actions will speak louder than words.
3. The AFL for initiating a comprehensive investigation led by Crown counsel to ensure that all allegations are investigated to the fullest extent possible.
The AFL has done a huge amount of work in the Indigenous space since the Adam Goodes saga to ensure its Indigenous players, families and communities feel valued, respected and belonged.
This work should be built upon, not destroyed.
Real progress is being made, let’s not self-destruct on the way to truth and equality.
4. An active Indigenous Players Association is more important now than ever.
Tanya Hosch, past and present Indigenous players understand the complexity of Indigenous kinship systems.
Players and their families should be able to seek support in an environment where they feel culturally safe and respected when they need support and guidance on matters of obvious concern to them.
5. The defendants have not yet had the right to reply.
They must tell their side of the story openly and honestly.
Hawthorn enjoyed great premiership success with a host of champion Indigenous players playing important roles both on and off the field.
Why such a discrepancy between what we perceived and what allegedly happened?
Allegations must be investigated, but it must be done fairly and equitably.
Indigenous people know all too well when the legal system is an injustice, hence the over-representation of Indigenous prisoners.
The appointment of an independent investigation is vital.
Finally, if the group consists of four people, at least two of them must be indigenous women. They will have a much better understanding of the complexities of this situation and are much more attuned to correcting mistakes, healing wounds, and rebuilding bridges.
- Clinton Wolfe is the managing director of the National Indigenous Times