‘It woke a conscience in me’: Collingwood urges AFL clubs to lead racism criticism | AFL

Collingwood says it is making progress in removing the stain of racism and wants other AFL teams to learn from its lessons, two years after an external review revealed systemic racism at the club.

The Do Better report, the result of an independent review in 2020 by the Jumbunna Institute, presented 18 recommendations for Collingwood to transform its processes, values ​​and culture to become a more inclusive workplace – all of which have been adopted by the club.

“In every recommendation in the report, there is a check mark,” said Dr. Helen Szoke, who led the expert advisory group overseeing the implementation of Do Better. The group submitted its final report to the Collingwood board last month, noting that 14 of the recommendations had been completed and four remained outstanding.

Key actions Collingwood has taken since Do Better include updating the club’s values ​​with a clear stance against racism, revising its recruitment approach to encourage the hiring of diverse people and requiring all staff take cultural awareness training.

The club welcomed former Indigenous stars Leon Davis and Andrew Krakouer to help lead cultural outreach efforts, which chairman Jeff Browne said had a “really powerful effect.”

“It stirred a conscience in me and I can tell you absolutely that it had the same effect on others around the board table that we listened to what we had to hear,” he said. declared.

Davis, a Ballardong and Whadjuk man who played for the Magpies for 11 years, has previously spoken out about the racism he has experienced.

“When I was playing, I obviously didn’t have as much cultural support as I needed and being in an environment like that was very, very difficult at times,” he said.

Steele Sidebottom, one of Collingwood’s most experienced players and a former teammate of Davis, said watching him talk to players about the things he’s been through “made me think, why didn’t I nothing done?”.

“At the time, I didn’t know. He talked about it, he would be the last one in, because he felt almost unincluded at times. If I had known that at the time, I would have stayed with him.

Since the arrival of the Do Better report, the club has changed chairman twice, injected new members into the board, welcomed a new manager and football coach and diversified its workforce.

Part of the response to Do Better was to set a 5% target for Indigenous representation in its roster – not just players. The club has confirmed that they have achieved this goal.

“Having people of color in higher positions within the club is just as important as having the value statement,” Szoke said.

Szoke, a former race discrimination commissioner, highlighted the work of board member Jodie Sizer, a Djap Wurrung and Gunditjmara woman who helped guide change within the organization.

“There is no doubt that having Jodie Sizer on the Collingwood board and having her filter on how these decisions are made has been absolutely essential,” she said.

The challenge for Collingwood now, Szoke said, is to make sure its new processes work in the event of a future problem.

“The club must be ready to respond to any incident wherever it occurs, whether it is a fan, a referee or another player,” she said. “The test for Collingwood will be in how they react.”

Browne is confident that the new systems in place will create an inclusive club for the long term – new applicants, for example, now have to go through a values ​​assessment. He noted the difference with the recent experience of short-lived Essendon chief executive Andrew Thorburn, who resigned a day after being given the job because of his affiliations with a church that held homophobic and anti- abortion.

“The opinions that surrounded Andrew Thorburn are not inclusive,” Browne said. “They harm everyone, not just identified groups, because it starts to break our cultural understanding of tolerance and inclusion. I wouldn’t welcome anyone to this club who promotes a lack of inclusivity. .

The club is committed to taking a hard line against racism in crowds. “If they are members of the club, they will be treated by the club,” Browne stressed. “If I found out that someone held an extreme opinion or held extreme right opinions that could be dangerous for people, then they would not be a member of this club.”

But Browne said education, not punishment, is the key to tackling racism and hopes other AFL clubs will be encouraged by the Collingwood experience.

“If other clubs or the AFL do it [an internal review on racism]?” he said. “Yes, I think they should.

“Do the same yourself. If you want to learn from us, learn from us.

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