The first alleged victims of the Hawthorn racism scandal have pledged to take part in the AFL’s investigation – if the AFL commits to “independently look at its own failings and promises to all First Nations families”.
Lawyers Arnold Bloch Leibler, representing four Hawks First Nations families, say are adamant they do not want a “witch-hunt” when it comes to the Hawks’ case – rather they want to ensure the AFL does not “sweep this crisis under the carpet”.
READ THE FULL OPEN LETTER BELOW
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“It’s not just a Hawthorn problem, just like it wasn’t just a Collingwood problem,” the open letter addressed to AFL Commissioners and CEO Gillon McLachlan read.
“The issue of racism in the AFL cannot be dealt with by a narrowly targeted investigation on a club-by-club, or crisis-by-crisis, basis.
“That may protect the AFL’s image and reputation in the short term, but it does not address our concerns, which won’t go away with a limited investigation of Hawthorn.’’
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The confirmation that the four families would take part in the investigation is the first since *Amy’s lawyers said she would not be taking part.
‘Amy’ — a pseudonym used for the person’s confidentiality — released a statement on Wednesday via her legal firm Marque Lawyers, labelling claims the investigation will be independent “a lie”.
Amy had made damning allegations, some allegedly involving North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson and Brisbane coach Chris Fagan, that her then-partner cut contact with her and told her to get an abortion under the club’s command.
Panel appointed to investigate Hawks | 01:38
Clarkson, Fagan and others named in the allegations have strenuously denied all claims.
Last month the AFL announced Bernard Quinn KC would lead the investigation into allegations of “racist behaviour, bullying and other inappropriate conduct” by Hawthorn employees — particularly towards First Nations players — between 2008 to 2016. Quinn will be joined by fellow panellists Jacqualyn Turfrey, Tim Goodwin and Julie Buxton.
It has for weeks been reported that several people to have made the accusations against the football club had concerns about being involved in the investigation process because of the clear conflict of interest for the AFL.
The AFL on Wednesday defended their stance on the matter, stating it can “only investigate the matter under AFL Rules” due to its jurisdiction.
In their open letter, ABL said it was committed to making sure “experiences will never be repeated”, and issued a call to arms for others to come forward and take part.
THE FULL OPEN LETTER
“You have asked us to participate in the AFL’s investigation into allegations of racism at the Hawthorn Football Club. We have reservations about that process and share many of the concerns expressed by Amy*. However, we also want to make sure our experiences will never be repeated and that is why we have taken our time to carefully consider our position.
“We do want to tell our truths to a panel of independent investigators in a culturally safe environment.
“But the issue of racism in the AFL cannot be dealt with by a narrowly targeted investigation on a club-by-club, or crisis-by-crisis, basis.
“That may protect the AFL’s image and reputation in the short term, but it does not address our concerns, which won’t go away with a limited investigation of Hawthorn.’
“We want the AFL to take a good hard look at itself and how it has dealt with racism in the past. Not because we want to trawl over a 100 years of neglect, or conduct a witch-hunt or to bring legal claims, but because we want the AFL to be a safer place for our children and all First Nations children who dream of playing AFL football.
“In our cultures the past shapes and determines our future.
“We ask as part of this process for the AFL to independently investigate how AFL policies, procedures and practices can be improved. We want to help educate AFL coaching staff, players and umpires about our cultures and our peoples and set KPI’s to annually test whether the AFL is doing better in relation to racism. For once and for all.
“Today we have decided to participate in the AFL Independent Investigation on the basis that the AFL is also committed to independently look at its own failings and promises to all First Nations families it will do better as a result. And we appreciate this will take more time to complete than a Hawthorn focused investigation.
“To the AFL clubs’ board of directors, tell the AFL not to sweep this crisis under the carpet as merely a Hawthorn problem. It’s not just a Hawthorn problem, just like it wasn’t just a Collingwood problem. Address the issue of racism in the AFL directly and purposively. The next crisis may be yours.
“To those First Nations players and their families who have previously been racially vilified and hurt by the AFL’s failures and silences, please lend your voices to our call to the AFL to do better. You inspire us. We stand shoulder to shoulder with you.”