• AFL commentator and teacher Shelley Ware has co-authored an open letter calling for stronger punishments for online racists. (NITV)Source: NITV
Recent attacks on AFL players including Elijah Taylor, Liam Ryan and Neville Jetta has prompted more than 100 signatories to demand the Attorney-General hold people accountable for online racism.
Mikele Syron

3 Sep 2020 - 6:28 PM  UPDATED 9 Sep 2020 - 12:18 PM

Prominent Indigenous identities have contributed to an open letter to Attorney-General Christian Porter demanding stronger penalties for perpetrators of online racism.

The letter requests “urgent, further action” to make online racists legally accountable, as well as permanent bans for individuals who post racist material on social media and a national action plan to respond to racist comments online.

The calls come after the revelation of a stream of racial attacks on Indigenous sportspeople in 2020. Sydney Swans player Elijah Taylor was the victim of abuse after he flouted quarantine rules, and the three children of West Coast Eagle Liam Ryan were the subject of racial vilification after he posted an image of them to his Instagram account.

Carlton's Eddie Betts was also the subject of racist taunts in June.

Veteran journalist Stan Grant, Melbourne Demons player Neville Jetta and three AFL club chief executives are among the 100 signatories.

Shelley Ware, an AFL commentator and teacher said she was motivated to co-author the letter after witnessing the long-term impacts of racism throughout her life.

“When an Indigenous person, or anyone, is racially vilified it has an impact on the real community, and every time that happens and there are no consequences for this behaviour, it allows other people to think it is okay,” she told NITV news.

“Indigenous leadership on this matter is important because we have personal stories, we have seen and experienced the long-term impacts of racism on ourselves and our families, but it’s even more important that we have non-Indigenous allies that stand with us to shine a light as well because they are saying it is important to them too and we are in this fight together.”

Co-author Kate Seear, a professor of Law at Melbourne's Monash University, said she got involved because it’s not “up to Indigenous people to fix racism.”

“It’s up to the rest of us. There is a strain that comes with repeatedly fighting and putting yourself out there too, we need to share the load,” she told NITV news.

The Attorney-General said on Wednesday that an online safety act is in development.