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‘There’s no excuse for abuse’

Proud Indigenous man and Hawthorn star Jarman Impey is an ambassador for Our Watch, an organisation which is a national leader in the primary prevention of violence against women and their children. As part of National Reconciliation Week, Impey has penned this column for to reiterate the message that ‘there’s no excuse for abuse’.

Since round one ended, I enjoyed my time in isolation. I had been at a family friend’s 10-acre property in Shepparton where I was able to mind my own business and escape the mad city life when I was living in Melbourne. It was a nice and relaxed environment, where I was able to focus on my training and get back to where I was before I injured my knee in July last year.

The time in lockdown gave me the opportunity to reflect and consider what reconciliation means to me.  As we come to the close of National Reconciliation Week, I love that it has symbolised coming together and having respect and understanding for one another and the cultures that make up Australia.

The theme of this year’s Reconciliation Week is ‘In This Together’ and it is very fitting considering the year we’ve had.

COVID-19 and the dreadful bushfires that ravaged our country have seen us come together in the most difficult of times.

Businesses have been hurt and some people have undoubtedly been affected both financially and emotionally, but our willingness to come together has never been more evident.

As an Aboriginal man, I believe that ‘In this Together’ means that we must respect and support the rights of our First Australians and look after the land that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have cherished for more than 40,000 years.

It’s a theme that considers how we live on this land in harmony by recognising Australia’s history, which has been characterised by land dispossession, colonisation, and racism.

To celebrate National Reconciliation Week at the Club, we linked up on Zoom to work on an Aboriginal painting.

We learnt how to draw and then paint a Tarrakukk Hawk with Aboriginal Artist, Tom Day. It was a really special way to mark Reconciliation Week with some of the boys and a shining example of how footy can lead the way in celebrating and learning about Indigenous culture.

I think it’s important that people approach learning about other cultures with an open mind, that people are curious and are free to ask questions.

Sharing your own experiences and listening to the stories of others, is a great way to gain a better understanding of what has gone on in the past and also what we can make the future.

We are very lucky as athletes that our game affords us such a great following.

This gives me an opportunity to be a leader within the community, which is why I am an ambassador for Our Watch.

Our Watch recently released a campaign called ‘No Excuse for Abuse’ which is about raising awareness of non-physical forms of violence.

Not all abuse is physical, it can be emotional, financial, social or spiritual.

When we know that intimate partner violence contributes 10.9 per cent of the burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged 18 to 44, which is more than any other health risk factor, including alcoholism, tobacco use or being overweight or obese, that puts into perspective the need for us to talk about the forms of abuse that men of all cultural backgrounds inflict on Indigenous women.

In order to prevent violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, we cannot ignore the lasting effects of colonisation on Indigenous people.

We are not starting from the same place and that must be acknowledged in order to achieve true reconciliation.

As a baseline, we must have respect for one another, indigenous or non-indigenous, male, female or otherwise. No one is perfect, myself included, but we can all practice being respectful of others, regardless of the potential stress, financial difficulties and social isolation that COVID-19 has brought with it. There is never an excuse for abuse.

With footy back on the horizon and having trained solo for 10 weeks through the COVID-19 period, I’ve been hanging to get back to see the group and do some training with the boys. There’s no doubt that it will be a strange season ahead, and it’s a shame that we missed some of the milestone weekends like the Sir Doug Nicholls Round as a result of the shutdown.

But I am glad that I’ve had a bit of extra time to reflect, and to recognise that in order to strengthen relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous peoples we must lead with respect and create greater understanding between us.

You can find out more about Our Watch’s ‘No excuse for abuse’ campaign here.

National Reconciliation Week runs from May 27-June 3