Helping coach some of SA's best young Indigenous footballers, North Adelaide footballer Robbie Young says he wants to help mentor and educate the next batch of players to come through the ranks.
The Ngarrindjeri, Narungga and Kaurna man was an assistant coach at an exhibition match on Tuesday, where the South Australian Aboriginal Junior Football Carnival (SAAJFC) representative side played against the Tjindu Foundation.
The match saw South Australia’s best junior Indigenous footballers take to the field to showcase their talent in a one-off game after COVID-19 cancelled the annual football carnival both last year and this year.
Speaking to NITV News, Young said working with up-and-coming Indigenous footballers was important to pass on knowledge and experiences, and to discuss how to deal with incidents of racism.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for myself just to be able to pass some positive messages on to the younger generation and educate them a bit about footy and life outside of footy,” said Young.
“(Also) being that positive role model around the racism stuff and all that stuff that’s been happening over the last couple of years.
“To advocate for our young people within our footy club has been something I am very proud of, and I will continue to do and it’s my passion.”
Both the Tjindu Foundation and the SAAJFC have been working to educate kids on the importance of education, whether it be in the classroom or on the football field.
One of the elements of the program is teaching kids how to deal with racism when it happens.
Now focused on mentoring the next batch of footballers, Mr Young said it’s an unfortunate subject they have to deal with.
“I’ve obviously dealt with it over the last couple of weeks… It makes anyone feel angry and frustrated,” he said.
“The reason I dealt with it the way I did is because for a lot of these young fullas out here, being able to give them a voice and let them know that if this occurs, that they have the power to stand up, point it out and say that it’s not okay… our people are sick to death of it.”
During a reserves match between Adelaide and North Adelaide in July, Walker directed a racial slur towards Young which was then reported by a member of his own club.
Following a conciliation process, Walker was handed several sanctions including the suspension, while he also apologised to both clubs, donated $20,000 to an Indigenous program and committed to undertaking education training.
He also appeared in an apology video alongside Mr Young that was released by the Adelaide Crows, which finished with Mr Walker saying he was “going to lean” on Mr Young and the AFL for support.
The video was criticised as being inauthentic, while former Adelaide star Eddie Betts said it was “tough” to watch.
Since the July incident, Eddie Betts made an impassioned plea to stamp out racism in the game, with all 20 AFL clubs committing to do their part.
The governing body also announced that clubs would be forced to employ Indigenous Liaison Officers and implement mandatory educational programs.
Mr Young said that raising awareness about our people is key in combatting racism going forward.
“It’s sad to see it’s still happening but hopefully at the end of the day we can educate more people around us about some of the sorts of things we live with day-to-day,” he said.
“Hopefully coming from that everyone has a better understanding of Aboriginal culture and what it’s like to be an Aboriginal person.”