• The 'Do Better' report found Collingwood needed to do more work to engage with the African community (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
As the Collingwood Football Club announces an anti-racism Expert Group, a key recommendation to include the voices of the African community appears to have been ignored.
By
Rachael Hocking

Source:
NITV News
18 Feb 2021 - 4:28 PM  UPDATED 18 Feb 2021 - 5:52 PM

The Collingwood Football Club announced the establishment of an anti-racism group on Thursday, but a key part of the scathing ‘Do Better’ report has been overlooked, with the club failing to include representation from the African community.  

The Expert Group on Anti-Racism is made up of 12 people, including former AFL star Daniel Wells, former Northern Territory Anti-Discrimination commissioner Eddie Cubillo and Collingwood Board member Jodie Sizer, to oversee the implementation of the report's 18 recommendations.

It is the first time an AFL club has formed a group specifically to tackle systemic racism, with its aim to advise the club's board on three key matters:

  • the development of an improved framework for responding to incidents of racism,
  • the creation and implementation of anti-racism policies
  • and ways in which the club can learn from its past to lead in the future.

But it appears the formation of the group has failed to acknowledge a key finding of the review. 

The report, which was leaked to the media at the beginning of the month, was triggered by the longstanding allegations of racial abuse by former player Heritier Lumumba.

Mr Lumumba, who is of Brazilian and Congolese descent, chose not to be involved with the review - a decision respected by the report’s authors Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt and Professor Lindon Coombes, both descendent of Yuwaalaraay people.

The report found Collingwood needed to do more work to engage with the African community, stating that “almost all the steps taken to improve the Club focused on Indigenous people.”

“While that was appropriate for a range of reasons, it meant that the different experiences, history and perspectives of other people of colour, particularly those of African players, were not appreciated,” the report read.  

“Addressing racism towards and the marginalisation of Indigenous people is not the only anti-racist task for the Club. Establishing a space for people of colour in Collingwood, including people of African, Middle Eastern, Asian, Pacific and South American backgrounds and cultures will be crucial going forward if an inclusive culture is to be created.”

The report recommended the Collingwood Board "oversee a cross-Club process of developing a culturally safe environment", emphasising "a focus on the cultural safety of people from diverse backgrounds, such as African or African descent further improves the inclusiveness and culture of the Club".

"This is especially important for those groups who have smaller levels of representation in the Club and across the AFL as they have a smaller cultural peer group on which to rely upon for support."

Collingwood FC told NITV News they approached members of the African community to join the Expert Group.

"The recruitment process for the Expert Group prioritised the expertise required to implement the 18 recommendations in the Do Better report," a statement reads.

"A wide range of candidates were approached to join the Expert Group, including members of African communities. Not all who were approached were in a position to assist."

"We continue to talk with people from a variety of backgrounds about enlisting their expertise."

Speaking to NITV News on Wednesday, Collingwood Board Member and Gunditjmara Djab Wurrung woman Jodie Sizer said the group was “the first step”.

“To design a framework that will chart the course forward for the next 12 months, incorporating all the recommendations so we can see a really clear pathway and immediate action starting today,” she said

“We as a club are ready to put our foot down on the pedal and implement those recommendations.”

Acknowledgment of Lumumba’s experience

Ms Sizer hinted that an acknowledgement of Mr Lumumba’s experience could be forthcoming.

Mr Lumumba, who is currently suing the club and the AFL for his alleged treatment, has consistently maintained the club publicly discredited him when he raised issues of racism.

When questioned about whether an acknowledgement of Mr Lumumba’s experience would form part of the club’s response to the report, Ms Sizer said it was a possibility.

“Yes I do believe the club can come out with some acknowledgments,” she said.

“We have stated in the early press release that we are sorry certainly for Heritier and any other person of colour, and our Indigenous peoples that have experienced any hurt or harm through the findings, that have outlined the systemic racism within the club,” she said.

“We take that very seriously; I take that very seriously as an Indigenous woman who myself and my family have experienced racism. And I’ve spent decades advocating for change in how we address this important issue.”

Ms Sizer said acknowledging the past, another recommendation of the 'Do Better' report, would be incorporated into the work of the Expert Group over the next 12 months.

“We see this report as a start in undertaking our own truth-telling, so that we can really put our foot on the pedal in implementing the actions,” she said.

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