Order to terminate a pregnancy. Forced to separate – and supervised. Changed phone numbers and monitored family communications. The allegations stem from a review of racism at Hawthorn Football Club, ABC revealed, are shocking.
They reveal an alleged culture under four-time Premiership manager Alastair Clarkson and former assistant manager Chris Fagan of abuse, ingrained racism and control over the lives and families of Indigenous players.
Fagan has resigned as Brisbane manager pending an independent inquiry and Clarkson has delayed his start at his new club North Melbourne pending an independent inquiry commissioned by the AFL. Clarkson has denied the allegations, while Fagan reportedly said he was unaware of the meetings at the heart of the allegations.
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Indigenous Australian Minister Linda Burney called the report shocking. “Aboriginal children grow up dreaming of playing football,” she says wrote on Twitter. “For many, being called up to a club is the pinnacle of their career, the culmination of years of hard work. You deserve so much better.”
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan told media this morning the club “needed to do more”.
“We need to conduct a proper investigation to get to the bottom of this and that’s important,” he said. “So many people are suffering today and have been for a long time.” He said an independent panel would allow the accused “to express their version of events.” The report will not be published.
AFL director-general for inclusion and social policy, Tanya Hosch, said the country has a problem with racism: “If you look at any organization in the country, specifically on issues related to the treatment, cultural safety of Aboriginal and Islander people Torres Strait, you would expect to find a problem. “
Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said on ABC Radio National that the AFL is an iconic institution and must be a role model – not unlike Parliament House – where “the very best standards must apply”.
Former soccer player and ABC presenter Tony Armstrong asked viewers this morning to “take a thought” for the First Nations community, saying it’s been a “tough little time” following reports of the Queen’s death, the ban on spit hoods, which are used disproportionately among Indigenous peoples and revelations about racism in the Kumanjayi Walker investigation.
“We have had 517 deaths in custody since the royal commission to date and now these allegations related to all this are not easy,” he said.
One player claimed a group of coaches asked him to terminate his partner’s pregnancy in the interest of his career, was told he had to move into an assistant coach’s house and had his SIM card removed to prevent contact with the limit family. The couple continued with the pregnancy but ended a second – after the stress and trauma – and say the club prompted them to split.
Another player said he was escorted to his and his pregnant partner’s home and told to tell her the relationship was over. He was later informed during training that she had miscarried. Another said he was only allowed to stay at home with his partner and newborn for a few days.
Australia has a shameful history of racism and racism in sport. Last year, a review by Collingwood found the club guilty of systemic racism and failing to effectively manage racist incidents, while criticizing Hawthorn for its earlier treatment and inclusion of Indigenous players. Last year, the Australian Human Rights Commission released a report on how to tackle spectator racism in sport.
Hawthorn Football Club has already sought to distance itself from the allegations, calling them “historic” in a statement released this morning.
“This important work has raised disturbing historical claims that warrant further investigation. Upon learning of these allegations, the club immediately engaged AFL Integrity as was appropriate,” the statement said.
“While the process demonstrated that the current environment at the club is culturally safe, it also recommended that some of the club’s current First Nations training and development programs should be further strengthened.”
Several incidents are said to have happened under Clarkson and Fagan, who worked together between 2013 and 2016. To protect the families’ identities, names and dates were omitted from the ABC report.
The AFL also released a statement, again calling the allegations “historic” and saying it is “finalizing its own process of investigating the allegations and seeking to speak to those who have shared their experiences of Hawthorn’s review.” .
“We are committed to the well-being of everyone involved.”
The AFL Players’ Association, which established an Indigenous Advisory Board in 2011 to advocate for First Nations players, has called for a well-resourced and wide-ranging independent investigation into the allegations.
This article was updated on September 21 at 6:00 p.m.
For anyone seeking help, Lifeline can be reached on 13 11 14 and Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 and the First Nations Support Line on 1800 959 500.