Opinion pieces, speeches & transcripts

Racism is not limited to sport

February 03, 2021

The first time I witnessed racism was at a football game when I was a kid.

One of the best players afield that day was called a "petrol sniffer" by an abusive member of the crowd seated behind me.

I remember the atmosphere in the crowd changed. Some people fell silent, a few people glared their disapproval at the abusive spectator.

Then nothing happened, people carried on watching the game.

Too many people have carried on watching the game while racism has persisted, as the report into systemic racism at the Collingwood Football Club sadly shows. The report found racism at Collingwood was "distinct" and "egregious".

Heritier Lumumba's claims of racism weren't taken seriously by the administration at Collingwood.

From Nicky Winmar's famous stand against racial abuse at Victoria Park in 1993 and the establishment of the AFL's racial vilification code in 1995 following the abuse of Michael Long by Collingwood ruckman Damian Monkhorst, racism has tainted the club.

The appointment of First Nations woman Jodie Sizer to the Collingwood board is meaningful progress. The report acknowledged "important and positive steps" taken by the club, including new measures that more directly target racism.

Leadership and culture matters when it comes to tackling racism.

This is true of any workplace.

Of course, racism isn't just a problem for Collingwood, nor just the AFL. Racism's ugly claws can be found throughout sports clubs and society more broadly.

The Black Lives Matter movement has shone new light on the systemic racism long faced by First Nations people.

As US President Joe Biden said: "Our soul will be troubled . as long as systemic racism is allowed to exist." Leadership and leaders matter.

An important way to tackle racism is to commit to a national anti-racism strategy, one that has a zero tolerance approach to racism at its heart.

Federal Labor has been calling for an anti-racism campaign for the past year.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities' Council Australia and other key multicultural groups have also called on the Morrison government to implement a national anti-racism strategy.

Leon Davis, who played more than 200 games for Collingwood, says he dealt with racism by trying to educate people.

It's an approach we all should follow.


This piece first appeared in the Herald Sun on Wednesday 3 February 2021.