• Cut off from his history by the Stolen Generations policy, Adam Goodes had to go on a journey of personal discovery. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The AFL legend had to explore his hidden past to discover his identity. As an ambassador for NITV's rebrand, he says the country needs to do the same.
Dan Butler

3 Dec 2021 - 12:30 PM  UPDATED 12 Dec 2021 - 10:27 AM

Adam Goodes is thinking about history, personal and shared. 

"So my culture, up until the early 2000s, was very much about the Australian way of living... barbecues, beach, putting another shrimp on the barbecue, having a beer on public holidays, going to the footy and supporting your team."

"(That was) until I learned about my ancestry, and going on a journey to understand my people (and) where I come from as a proud Indigenous man," he said.

The Adnyamathanha and Narungga man, a face so well known to us all through his supreme sporting achievements, was unknown to himself, a fact he realised after his fame led the media to continually refer to him as an 'Indigenous role model'.

"And I actually didn't know what it meant to be an Indigenous person. So for me to understand what they're expecting of me, I had to go on my own journey," he said.

It's a journey he had to undertake solo. His mother, Lisa Sansbury, is a member of the Stolen Generations. As was the purpose of that gruesome policy, it severed the connection between Adam's family and their culture. 

It's a detachment that he says exists in everyone, a kind of national dissociation, between this country's newer inhabitants and the cultures that are inextricably linked with the land they are living on.

"I come from a long line of ancestors that are storytellers, and our history is passed on orally," he said.

"And here in Australia, there's been a disconnect of us being able to share that story with the rest of the country."

We're discussing NITV's new brand position Reimagine Australia. It's a complex topic, one that raises plenty of strong emotions; even that title, 'Australia', is a difficult word and concept for some. 

The campaign asks audiences to rethink our identity as a nation and work towards a future fuelled by the vibrancy of cultures in Australia, underpinned by 60-thousand years of traditional, resilience and strength of First Nations people.

For Adam, that process begins with a journey much like his own, of discovering and acknowledging our past.

"We need to be more open with our history… for us to reconcile in Australia we need to keep telling those stories of truth and honesty of what's happened, good and bad."

As a world traveller, Adam says he keenly feels this disconnect when he encounters the kind of curiosity abroad that is lacking at home.

"People always want to know about Indigenous people and culture, the arts. And here in Australia, it's not something we celebrate every single day or even talk about.

"So for me, you know, celebrating our Indigenous connection is something that all Australians can benefit in and feel proud of."

Without embracing First Nations cultures, and acknowledging the continuing horrors of colonialism, the country cannot truly know itself, and in so doing does itself the greatest disservice.

It's the same journey Adam has been on. He says it's the country's turn now. 

"And for me, tuning into NITV and seeing the stories, the Indigenous faces, the language, the culture that is shared on this platform, gives me a platform to send other people to.

"For them to learn from, to enjoy some of our humour, our stories that our lives aren't always about pain and suffering; that we are very humorous people, caring people, sharing people, and you can really see that from a lot of the content that's produced and shared on NITV."


NITV launches its new re-brand on 12 December.

Uncle Jack Charles, Sasha Sarago, Samantha Harris, Ella Havelka and other notable First Nations people will be appearing as ambassadors as a part of the new NITV brand campaign.

Join Karla Grant and John Paul Janke as they reflect on some of the highlights over the years on NITV and introduce new content coming to NITV screens in 2022. Looking Forward, Looking Back airs Sunday 12 December at 7.30pm