Statement: AFLPA Position on Hawthorn Issue

The following statement is issued in response to the AFL’s announcement last night and attributed to AFLPA CEO, Paul Marsh.

First and foremost, our thoughts are with the people impacted by the events that have occurred in relation to the report commissioned by Hawthorn and the subsequent AFL investigative process.

The AFL Players’ Association supports our impacted members, their families and their representatives through the decisions they have made so far and will continue to into the future. This includes Tuesday’s agreement by players and families who participated in the AFL’s investigation that it be terminated, and any future action they choose to take.

As an industry, we have legal and moral duties to our players – past, present, and future – to ensure they are physically, mentally, and culturally safe and respected.

The allegations raised by players and their families as part of Hawthorn’s Binmada Report were extremely serious and disturbing in nature and required an independent, wide-ranging, well-resourced and culturally safe process.

The AFLPA had serious concerns with the AFL’s process from the outset. We raised those concerns with the AFL formally, and made our views known publicly.

While acknowledging the complexity of this issue, in our view, the investigation process was flawed. The investigative process was not truly independent of the AFL, as the AFL retained, and ultimately exercised, their extensive rights and controls. There was also a lack of clarity for participants as to the process and potential remedies.

Our industry must get better at preventing and responding to racism and other fundamental human rights concerns. This issue – from the commissioning of the Binmada Report to the very protracted nature of the AFL investigation – is yet another significant issue that presents the industry with an urgent need to reflect on whether the right industry-wide reporting systems, commitments and levels of accountability exist to ensure this does not happen again.

Together, AFL and AFLW players, through the AFLPA, have proposed a Human Rights Policy and Framework to the AFL as part of our current CBA negotiations. Our approach seeks to enhance collaboration across our industry on the key issues impacting our people, including the protection of rights and access to remedy, to create an environment where everyone feels safe.

The AFLPA’s Human Rights Steering Committee and Indigenous Advisory Board will play an active role in informing our ongoing work in these areas and we believe our industry has an opportunity to work more closely together to address these human rights issues for the betterment of the industry and our people moving forward.

Until this work is done, we hold considerable fears that players and other members of our industry who suffer racism, sexism or other forms of exclusion or discrimination will be hesitant to raise concerns or share their experiences.

We note the AFL’s commitment to several initiatives as part of its termination of the investigation and support those actions being taken. We have asked the AFL for a clear timeline, process and plan, as well as further information on the additional resources it intends to commit to while undertaking these initiatives and we call on the AFL to work in partnership with the AFLPA on the design, implementation, monitoring, and reporting of these initiatives.  

The AFLPA continues to provide a range of support services for our members, including our Mental Health Navigator Service, and we encourage any member to reach out to us or the service if they need support.

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