While we are good at celebrating the brilliance of current footballers during the AFL’s Indigenous Round, we should equally pause to consider the impact of football’s pioneers.
That’s the view of the AFL Players’ Association’s Indigenous and multicultural program coordinator, Tony Armstrong, the former Adelaide, Sydney and Collingwood footballer who played 35 AFL games between 2009-15.
“The way Australia is now is so much better for having guys like ‘Polly’ Farmer, Doug Nicholls, Andrew McLeod, Micky O (O’Loughlin) … and Indigenous Round gives us a great opportunity to shine a light on what they did and how we can be better going forward,” said Armstrong (pictured top).
Armstrong said the challenging path trod by former Indigenous players had not just forever changed the sport’s attitudes towards racism, it had paved the way for a raft of initiatives and support programs that had made football one of the most inclusive industries in Australia.
Click HERE to see our interactive Indigenous Map, which charts the language and/or cultural groups of every AFL player
Click HERE to read the AFL players’ Association’s Reconciliation Action Plan 2015-17
The AFL clubs now have Reconciliation Action Plans (at 10 of the 18 clubs), Indigenous liaison officers (at four clubs) and cultural awareness training.
The AFL and the AFL Players’ Association also organise a biennial Indigenous Camp and All Stars match, and have backed research work into how to best support past and present players.
Armstrong said he felt the AFL Players’ Association had a history of being proactive in Indigenous programs.
“It’s something I’m really passionate about, especially coming into a new CBA year – there’s a lot of work to be done trying to collate information to try to make the AFL experience better and longer for indigenous and multicultural players,” he said.
He pointed to achievements such as:
– the Best Practice Guidelines developed by Indigenous players at the 2013 Indigenous Camp
– Host family network established for Melbourne-based clubs
– A mentoring program established this year
– Involvement in the “Racism. It Stops with me” campaign
– The interactive Indigenous Map charting AFL players’ heritages
– Partnership with RMIT to support Indigenous players through their studies (through RMIT) – Indigenous focussed courses
– The AFLPA’s Indigenous Advisory Board
– The AFLPA offering part-time employment to an Indigenous footballer transitioning out of his playing career
Armstrong said one of football’s other great achievements was to help Indigenous players feel confident and proud about their culture.
Having grown up in Cabramatta, the son of an Irish mother and an Indigenous father, he said some of his football mentors, such as Adelaide great Andrew McLeod, had helped him become more comfortable with his Aboriginality over the years.
Click HERE to see every club’s 2016 Indigenous Round jumper design