Indigenous AFL great Eddie Betts says he was not surprised by the shocking claims in Hawthorn’s racism report, telling of being treated with intolerance just this year.
And the Carlton and Adelaide champion delivered an emotional plea to every club to investigate their past treatment of First Nations people.
Betts has bravely spoken out against racism on numerous occasions during and after his AFL career, this time having to address the horrific allegations in the Hawks report which he felt had echoes of the Stolen Generation.
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Betts explained he believed his “brothers” and told of being the victim of racism just this year, making him feel like he “doesn’t belong here”.
Below is a full transcript of Betts’ comments on Fox Footy’s AFL 360.
ON READING THE ARTICLE THAT BROKE THE STORY
“It was a tough read, reading that today, but I wasn’t surprised, to be honest.
“You know, Aboriginal people, we’re not surprised as well, as we face these issues in many systems in the education system, the justice system, in the health system. And it always comes back to what I’ve been preaching a lot, and that’s education.
“I mean, and we’ve spoken about before about the Indigenous Liasion Officers, you know, having those people at the footy club now can make those spaces a lot safer for these young Aboriginal kids. And, yeah, my heart goes out to those players (at Hawthorn) for being brave, for speaking up and their families as well, but it was, it was really hard.
“And this could happen at any club – if Shaun Burgoyne was at that football club and it slipped under the table then, (with him) as a leader, and listening to him speak he was very devastated that these boys did not speak to him. I don’t know if they were told not to speak to him or not. But if that was the case, this could happen at any football club.
“And I think that every football club should do a review like this. Every football club should come out and do an external review. Contact the Indigenous players, past and present, and see how the footy club was.”
DOES THIS NEED TO BE A LINE IN THE SAND MOMENT?
“Yeah, it does.
“It was sad to read because you know, we want this football, we want this industry to be safe for the young Aboriginal kids and we live in two different worlds. So if you want an Aboriginal kid that comes from the community, you know, you’re family orientated, and that’s the way you grow up, you care, you navigate your way through these big families in order to survive.
“And then coming to the AFL system, the system that’s really not built for them is daunting, and it’s really, really tough and hard. And I guess now having those dependencies and obviously it could be a bit easier for these kids to come in, to have that safe space, or have someone to talk to that understands them, that feels what they’re going through.
“And I don’t know if that was the case back then at Hawthorn that they could’ve spoken to anybody.”
DID YOU AND FELLOW INDIGENOUS PLAYERS TALK ABOUT THIS TODAY?
“Yeah, we’ve got a group Whatsapp text message (chain), and we had a chat today about it. I can’t really go into depth but we spoke about how we felt.”
HAVE THE HAWKS PLAYERS BEEN SPOKEN TO BY SENIOR INDIGENOUS PLAYERS?
“I think so, yes. And I know one of them, which I’ll reach out to as well.”
WHAT WILL YOU SAY TO HIM?
“You know, how brave it was. Thank you for speaking up and bringing this awareness to everybody because if you hadn’t spoken up, we wouldn’t be going through this and people need to learn, people need to be educated. And like I said, it always comes back to the educational piece for us to all move together as one.”
HOW MUCH DID THE ABORTION ALLEGATION TAKE YOU BACK?
“That was pretty sad. When he (AFL 360 host Gerard Whateley) was talking about the Stolen Generation, that kind of hurt a bit as well, because it was kind of like that, you know, because my mom’s father was the Stolen Generation.
“He was taken away from his kids and, and he told us the stories about how he felt and how that was and you know, it’s kind of close to that, in a sense. But yeah, it was really, really, really sad to read.
DID YOU HAVE CONTACT WITH AFL CEO GILL MCLACHLAN TODAY?
“I did. As a group. And we just spoke about how we felt.
“How we felt, and how we move forward. And where to from here.”
HOW DOES FOOTY MOVE FORWARD?
“I don’t know because we keep coming back to this. We keep finding ourselves talking about it.
“You keep hearing me on this show. You know, preaching my heart out, when is it going to stop, when are we going to grow up? When are we going to learn? When are we going to educate ourselves?
“And reconciliation, the theme this year was to be brave and make change, and it is hard and it is awkward to have those conversations. But you need to be brave. You need to step out of your comfort zone and start having these conversations calling it out.
“And until we do that, and that’s when we could make change and move forward. But if you know if you’re not brave, and you don’t call it out, then we’re not going to make any change.”
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T BELIEVE THE ALLEGATIONS?
“People are gonna believe what they are gonna believe, but I guess it is tough and it is hard.
“But I’m always gonna believe the players and the brothers.”
SO YOU BELIEVE ALL THE ALLEGATIONS?
“Well, it keeps happening. We grow up with this stuff. It’s not just, like I said, not just the AFL system, it’s all these systems.
“I find myself being followed by security guards in a shop. This year. This year, I was in a pool. And the lifeguard came up to me and told me that I needed to get out of the pool. I was holding my kid, my baby in my hand with ny two twins riding around. And I found out that two old white elderly people told the lifeguard to tell me to get out of the pool because I was making their grandchild uncomfortable.
“And that just made me feel like I don’t belong here in Australia, because these issues keep occurring, that I keep facing, that all Aboriginal people keep facing here in Australia. And I honestly don’t feel like I belong here, but my wife keeps driving it into me and keeps telling me that out of anyone, you should feel like you belong here, out of everybody because this is your country, and you should never feel like that.
“But because I keep facing these issues, I don’t feel like I belong.”