Immunisation requirements on Indigenous players

Statement from Indigenous Advisory Board:

The AFL Players’ Indigenous Advisory Board (IAB) today accepted the AFL’s unreserved apology as part of an agreed set of actions to address their handling of pneumococcal vaccination requirements prior to Indigenous players entering Queensland in season 2020.

The AFL requirement for only Indigenous players to be vaccinated caused great distress to players and their families and was discriminatory and inappropriate.

This issue highlights that our industry needs to do significantly better to understand, respect and support our Indigenous players.

The IAB, through the AFLPA, has worked with the AFL to agree to a series of actions to ensure that no Indigenous player is ever again placed in such an unacceptable situation. One of the key agreed actions is that Indigenous players, through the IAB, will be centrally involved in all future decisions that impact them.

Chair of the IAB, Shaun Burgoyne, said that whilst the situation should never have transpired, the players acknowledge that the AFL has taken full responsibility for what has occurred, and are pleased that the agreed actions will protect Indigenous players into the future.

“It was of utmost importance to the players that their concerns around this serious issue were heard and addressed, not just for players and their families, but for our Indigenous community more broadly”, Burgoyne said.

“The handling of this situation demonstrated a lack of cultural awareness and safety by the AFL, and the players and their families were impacted as a result. It was done without appropriate thought, and without appropriate consultation with our representatives we were left without a voice.

“For too long, Indigenous voices have been neglected in matters that impact them, and we hope this issue is a catalyst for positive change.

“The IAB is pleased to see the industry commit to actions that will ensure this situation is to never happen again. By ensuring that Indigenous players are central to the decisions that impact them, we are confident that we have paved a more positive future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our great game.

“The players would like to thank the AFLPA for supporting us through the process and advocating on our behalf to reach this outcome.”

AFLPA CEO, Paul Marsh, welcomed the AFL’s apology and said the agreed actions are critical in allowing our industry to move forward.

“The situation has highlighted that whilst we have made progress as an industry on matters relating to our Indigenous players, we still have a long way to go”, Marsh said.

“It was completely unacceptable for our Indigenous players to be discriminated against by requiring only them to be vaccinated, and this has had a deep impact on many of our Indigenous players and their families, as well as some club staff.

“I applaud the Indigenous players for speaking out on this issue. Through the agreed actions we will see positive change, and I’d encourage all of us in the industry to reflect on how we can educate ourselves and get better from this experience.

“We have a great opportunity to make a positive shift as an industry on the back of this. We need to get ahead of issues like this and be clear on what is and isn’t acceptable through our policies and planning.

“To do this the player voice has to be heard from the beginning of any decision-making processes involving them. Through this approach we will have policies and processes that properly respect the rights of all players.”

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