How big a problem is racism in Australian sport?

The National Rugby League was rocked by a race row involving player Timana Tahu and league legend Andrew Johns earlier this year.

The National Rugby League was rocked by a race row involving player Timana Tahu and league legend Andrew Johns earlier this year.

Then last week the Australian Communications and Media Authority ruled AFL television personality Sam Newman had ridiculed a Malaysian man's race and colour on the AFL Footy Show.

Are these isolated incidents, or signs of a nationwide problem?

Marcia Ella-Duncan was the first Indigenous woman to make the Australian national netball team.

But speaking recently at a forum examining racism in sport, she said her career progression had been hindered by subtle forms of racism.

Chief Executive of Netball Australia Kate Palmer says in the years since Ella-Duncan played, policies have been put in place to ensure equity and harmony.

She says Netball Australia's member protection policy helps ensure all people these days are treated fairly.

"We also have a range of codes of behaviour that are directed at coaches, umpires, athletes. And they cover areas such as discrimination, harassment, abuse, those types of things. But also about mechanisms by which we manage complaints."

Racism in sport can include discrimination, harassment or vilification by players, spectators, sporting officials and coaches, as well as media commentators.

Race and Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes says any challenging of racism needs to come from the top.

"What we need is leaders of all sporting codes to make it very clear that racism is not to be tolerated in sport, but to back those words up with actions," he says.

Mr Innes says it is important to ensure sportsmen and women who are held up as role models do not use racial slurs.

National Rugby League Chief Executive David Gallop agrees that challenging racism in sport can help change community attitudes.

Mr Gallop says the first Indigenous All-Stars game, which took place in February, is a great example of practical reconciliation and is only part of the work being done by the NRL to encourage social cohesion.

"We're the first sport to have a Reconciliation Action Plan. And we've recently launched our second one. We're engaged in cultural awareness courses with all of our players as they come into the NRL, and we're endeavouring to do what we can to make sure that our players understand that racist attitudes are not tolerated in our sport," he says.

In June, NSW State of Origin player Timana Tahu quit the team in protest over remarks made by then assistant coach Andrew Johns.

Mr GallopP says that incident has taught the N-R-L to take a proactive approach when racism is raised.

Source SBS

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