• Heritier Lumumba says he was subjected to racial slurs, including the nickname Chimp, during his 10-year playing career at Collingwood. (AAP)Source: AAP
Eualaya and Kamilaroi woman Larissa Behrendt will lead an investigation into Collingwood AFL club culture following accounts of racism from former player Heritier Lumumba.
By
Keira Jenkins

Source:
NITV News
7 Jul 2020 - 8:32 AM  UPDATED 7 Jul 2020 - 8:32 AM

Collingwood AFL Club have appointed Eualeya and Kamilaroi woman Larissa Behrendt to lead an investigation into the club's culture.

The investigation follows allegations from former player Heritier Lumumba who said he was subjected to racial slurs, including being called 'chimp', during his 10-year career playing at the club.

Professor Behrendt is a research director at the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology Sydney.

A statement from Collingwood Football Club said Professor Behrendt will lead a team of researchers to revisit the time Mr Lumumba played for the club - from 2005, until 2014.

Club Director Peter Murphy said he expected Professor Behrendt's work to produce a 'full and frank account' of club culture during this period.

“It has become increasingly clear that in Heritier’s time we were unable to understand his experience; see and hear what he saw and heard," he said.

"This lack of cultural safety that he and others have recently spoken of is a matter of great concern.

“We are seeking to understand these experiences of racism and to ensure they have no place in the current Collingwood environment.”

Professor Behrendt and Collingwood Football Club have said they won't make any further comment until the inquiry is done.

Mr Lumumba had said before the appointment of Professor Behrendt that he would not take part in the investigation, labelling it 'insulting'.

He told NITV's Take It Blak, that Collingwood needed to acknowledge there was racism in the club culture before they could move forward.

"An acknowledgement is the first step, once you have made that public acknowledgement because the lies were spread or the misinformation was spread in a public forum it then moves to another phase," he said.

"And then the next phase is where we're siting at the table and we're actually conversing and then that's what I see as an exploration phase and that's an exploration of which racist policies were in effect and affected myself and others.

"It's also an identification of those policies, then that allows you to move through the next phase, which is now we need to eradicate those policies, we need to abolish them and what we need to bring in is anti-racist policies and bring in things that remove these racial inequities.

"Then once that is done, once these anti-racist policies are brought into action, then that's when you get a formal apology, that's when I know that the apology is sincere because you've walked the steps with me.

"You don't just say 'sorry, sorry' and that's it. That's not how it works."

'Dehumanising'

Mr Lumumba said his treatment since coming out with allegations of racism at the club had been dehumanising.

"It's dehumanising because when you share your truth and people deny that truth, what they're really doing is denying the feelings and the impact of what took place," he said.

"What they're essentially saying is I don't want to be open, I don't want to consider that there is truth in what you're saying, I don't want to consider the feelings that you had to go through or the pain that this has caused or the trauma, I'm just going to shut this off and as a result, what I'm saying is your humanity doesn't matter to me  because it makes me feel too uncomfortable or it's too confronting to me.It's easier for me to shut you off and say your life doesn't matter.

"That's dehumanising and when you feel dehumanised it can lead to a whole range of different effects.

"Everything from depression, everything from anxiety, depending what the issue is but it can trigger a whole range of mental health ailments, which can then put you into the cycle of destructive behaviours."

Mr Lumumba said his experiences of racism during his time as an AFL player affected his performance in the game.

"If I'm a blackfella and I'm getting affected by racism and whitefullas aren't getting affected by anti-black racism and I react to it and I'm getting punished because of it, can you see the inequity there," he said.

"The whitefulla, he's immune to that, doesn't even have to go through that, so I have this extra layer of challenge that I have to face and then on top of that I'm expected to perform.

"Imagine if us blackfellas in the league didn't have to go through what we go through, do you know how much better our performance would be, I can tell you myself, my performance would have been so much better if, in the prime of my career I didn't have to go through any of this."

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