The Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board is the first of its kind in Australian Sport and works closely with the AFL and AFL Players’ Association to provide guidance on matters specifically relating to Indigenous players.
This fact is something our industry is very proud of, however what makes me just as proud is that the concept was conceived and driven by players during the 2011 AFL Players’ Indigenous Camp in Sydney.
During this camp, players raised the idea and voted for its immediate formation and with the assistance of the AFL Players Association we have been able to turn this concept into a reality. This ability to bring a concept to life is a key factor when evaluating the success of these camps because it is important that when we get together as a group we do more than just talk about how to improve the landscape for Indigenous Players, we actually make it happen.
The election that followed saw a large number of applications which highlighted not only the willingness of players to be involved but also the high calibre of players wanting a position on the board.
The members who were elected are highly skilled, highly motivated, experienced and respected leaders and their contributions so far have been nothing short of outstanding.
Graeme Johncock, Roger Hayden, Aaron Davey, Chance Bateman, Nathan Lovett-Murray, Shaun Burgoyne and Xavier Clarke were elected by their peers and I have been honoured to have been elected as the Chairman. (Since Xavier’s retirement and employment at the AFL & AFL Players’ Association, Jarrod Harbrow has been approached and joined the Board in his place).
I have been fortunate to have had previous Board experience in my role as an executive member of the Players’ Association and I think it is important for future Indigenous player leaders to be involved in these forums so that an Indigenous voice is heard on matters which are not only specific to Indigenous players.
During my fifteen years I have seen dramatic changes in the landscape for Indigenous players and there is no doubt that the industry has grown in their cultural understanding of Indigenous diversity, however there are still many areas which can be improved.
And it is a two way street. We identified at our first board meeting that we need to better educate players about the services that are available through the Players Association. We want to encourage more players to take advantage of opportunities like the Education and Training Grants, which are available to all players and assist players with further education which can help when making your transition out of the game.
We also discussed the need to continue educating clubs and the industry about Indigenous culture. It is important that clubs know how they can assist Indigenous players during their time in the game and particularly when they are transitioning into the system and may be experiencing cultural challenges.
We also plan to work with the Association when they are considering culturally specific programs and this will assist future generations of Indigenous players and ensure they stay in the system.
This is where the role of the Players’ Association is critical as it is the mechanism to make things like this occur and has been set up “For Players, By Players.”
Over the past couple of years I have see the relationship between AFL players and the PA continue to flourish, and this is the same with Indigenous players who are actively thinking about how we can improve the industry and then communicating these ideas at events like the Indigenous Camp.
The engagement from players is better than ever before and with the formation of the Advisory Board we will now aim to ensure that these ideas are presented more regularly and through the assistance of the players association we hope these will become a reality.