Sunday, May 26, 2013

Indigenous round starts with drama

The indigenous round started on Friday night with the first game being played between Sydney Swans and Collingwood at the MCG. What should have been a celebration of a resounding win by Sydney unfortunately ended in an incident that has created national headlines. It is ironic that the champions of last year and perhaps the most liked team and probably the most disliked team in the league were involved.

A female Collingwood fan was exited from the game on Friday night after a racial comment against Sydney Swans champion Adam Goodes. Shockingly the young girl is apparently only 13 years old. She allegedly called Goodes an ape as he lined up for a goal.
Footage shows Goodes walking up to the fence line, pointing out the young girl who was subsequently escorted out by security. Goodes then went on to have a cracker of a game and Swans thrashed the pies.

At his press conference on Saturday morning Goodes spoke with a lot of empathy towards the young girl which simply shows his depth of character. This is not the first time Adam has been called names and he claims that other players in the last 10 years have called him names such as monkey etc.

There have been a number of reported cases over the years of players sledging each other on the field but if racial comments are still part of this game then what sort message are we sending to the football supporters?
It is ironic that the young girl was a Collingwood supporter and there are likely elements today commenting are we really surprised at this level of behaviour from a pies fan.

This is however an issue for our society. Clearly this young girls statement is a reflection of her environment where it may be acceptable to call people names, she may be a victim of bullying herself, whatever the reason I hope that right now she is being supported by people who will counsel her correctly,  help and support her now and long term.
There cannot be a witch hunt nor can she become the face of what we call intolerant behaviour. She is a young kid who made a terrible mistake. She needs support, education and help.  I am disappointed for Adam Goodes and how the name calling made him feel, I admire his strength to stand up to it however I equally have concern for the young girl.

She was clearly visibly upset when she left the field unaware of the furore she was going to start, and has woken up this morning to events that will change her life.
This is an incident that will be life changing and as a minor is very young to fully understand or deal with the short and long term ramifications.

Many may suggest that it wasn’t the worst racial comment one can have thrown at them however what people need to understand that words or name calling can hurt individuals differently.
And clearly this is the case given her open apology to Goodes and conversation she had with him.

It also concerns me that the MCG security asked the family to remain seated as they ejected her then held her for two hours for questioning.  Yes we need zero tolerance on racism but this girl is also only 13 so let’s keep it in prospective.
 As someone who has been at the receiving end of racial taunts I know how Adam Goodes feels and today and I applaud him for making a stand not just for himself but the community he represents.

One must say well done to Collingwood who have reacted positively to the incident with Eddie McGuire going into the Swans change rooms to apologise to Goodes for the incident.
The indigenous round is a celebration of Goodes’s people and culture, the contribution they bring to our game and the talent we have across many teams. It brings back memories of Nicky Winnmar 20 years ago when he made a similar stand and it is sad that these incidents are still occurring.

Adam Goodes is clearly shattered however is quite rightly is supporting the young girl offering to talk to her and educate her.
Sadly racism exists in Australia and unfortunately on Friday it had the face of a 13 year old girl. It has no place in our culture and society however it will always exist.

It is important to understand that young kids do not grow up racists; they develop these tendencies influenced by the adults in their life. 
For those of us who are more tolerant we must ensure that we continue to educate those who are not and at the same time support the younger generation who will make these sorts of mistakes.

Let’s not forget also that Australia is a melting pot of so many ethnic groups. We are far more tolerant here than in many other places. Those who are racists or not tolerant of the ethnic diversity that exists here are in the minority.
This incident has provided us an opportunity to make a clear statement that racism of any kind is simply not acceptable in our society, that this girl is a minor and we need to ensure that we educate our children to be more tolerant.

We also need to accept that we will never remove racism completely from our communities however when it occurs it is ok to make a stand against it so that we can educate people and make changes.
Remember - Education is the key to tolerance. We fear what we don’t know or understand. We are influenced by those who are older than us.

Let’s hope that the media, the AFL and the indigenous community create this into a positive by helping the young girl and sending the right message into our communities on this issue.
Mahatma Ghandi once said – you must be the change you want to see in the world. It is up to those of us who are more tolerant to create the change we want to see occur.