Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, a Noongar man from Perth, is one of Australia's football greats. Known for revolutionising ruckwork and handballing in Aussie Rules, his career success in AFL (formally the VFL) in the 1950s/60s saw him play over 300 games him, captain several teams, win premierships and be awarded a suite of top prize Medals. After 19 extraordinary years of his football career, Farmer went on to coach Geelong, East Perth and WA's first State of Origin team.
For a footballer who played during a time when Indigenous people were underclassed as citizens, Farmer's success is historically remarkable.
Polly’s daughter Kim Farmer said that football enabled many Indigenous footy players like her father to gain access to mainstream opportunities and be included in Australian society while Indigenous people were still being denied the same rights as non-Indigenous people,
“Dad was especially lucky to be welcomed and accepted into football at a time when the Australian government was controlling every aspect of Aboriginal people’s life,” she told NITV.
Farmer played for East Perth, Geelong and West Perth Football Clubs, and was first ever football player in Australia to receive a Queen's Honour in being named as a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
In 1997, 21 years ago, Farmer was acknowledged for his contributions to sport and his community by WA Transport Minister, Eric Charlton. It was announced that the 6.4 kilometre and $400 million freeway would be named the Graham Farmer Freeway.
Polly’s daughter Kim Farmer first interpreted the project to be just as simple road, “I originally thought it was just a road, never did I realise it would be a freeway that was named after dad.”
While on the phone (hands free, of course) to NITV, Kim was driving over the Graham Farmer Freeway that very moment.
Sadly, Farmer is one of the 1.7 per cent of the population living with dementia, a disease almost five times more common amongst Indigenous people. However, although Polly battles with a serious condition, his talent and contribution on and off the football field still continues to be celebrated and recognised by the Australian Rules community. Today Polly’s influence and legacy continues to shine through the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation. A charity organisation which offers tutoring and mentoring programs for young Indigenous students.
Kim told NITV that the foundation’s main philosophy is about encouraging and supporting Indigenous youth throughout their schooling.
"The Foundation's main goal is to support Indigenous youth whilst at school as well as help them develop a career objective after school.”
For more information on the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation, go here.
If you are looking for support for dementia related illness, find your nearest Aboriginal health service via. the NACCHO Member Services list.
Episode One of NITV's football documentary series, Nyoongar Footy Magic profiles Graham "Polly" Farmer. Tune in Tonight, 9pm on NITV (Ch. 34)