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Racism: “Australia must and can be better than this”

Racism: “Australia must and can be better than this”

Human Rights Commission statement ahead of Adam Goodes return to AFL.

Adam Goodes and supporters at a 2014 Racism. It Stops With Me. Photoshoot 

Following the weekend’s events when prominent Aboriginal AFL player and former Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes was booed at every turn during the Swans v West Coast Eagles AFL match.

Today in advance of the weekend round of AFL, 150 organisations (listed overleaf) join together to call for renewed efforts to stamp out racism in sport and everyday life.

For too long, we have witnessed the poor treatment of Sydney Swans star and dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes at the hands of fans during AFL matches. A proud Ambassador of the “Racism. It Stops with Me” Campaign, Goodes is a strong advocate for standing up against racism and for issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The booing, which has snowballed out of control this year since Goodes proudly displayed his culture during the AFL Indigenous Round, appears to be in large part racially motivated.

Adam Goodes is an outstanding Australian and should be commended for displaying a culture all Australians should celebrate and be proud of, and for taking a courageous stance against racism. The behaviour of the crowd that booed him is absolutely unacceptable and must stop.

To dismiss claims of racism as just banter is to use football as a shield for prejudice. Legitimate barracking for one’s team is a tradition that has been alive as long as the game itself but, when such behaviour coincides with cultural displays and Goodes’ efforts to stop racism, it is clear that a line has been crossed to racial abuse.

To suggest that this kind of behaviour does not have an effect is to deny the evidence about the known health impacts of racism. These are not diminished simply because the person being subjected to racial abuse is an elite athlete. It is deeply disturbing that this kind of racism may influence whether a player decides to take the field for one match or is forced out of the game for good.

If this isn’t stamped out, then we must ask what message this sends to future generations of Australians about the forms of behaviour that we find acceptable in this country. And what message does it send to young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about their culture, and what they can expect should they want to excel in sport or other fields.

It is a great stain on our nation that the experience of Adam Goodes is the lived experience of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and there is ample evidence that demonstrates the negative impact on mental and physical health, as well as life opportunities. 

Racism has no place in Australian sport or our society at large. We commend the actions that have been taken inside and out of the AFL, but call on all sports and sporting clubs to develop coherent and far reaching strategies in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people to stamp out racism in sport.

As a starting point, codes and clubs should encourage members and supporters to join the ‘Racism: It Stops with Me’ campaign at https://itstopswithme.humanrights.gov.au

Australia must and can be better than this.

For more information or interviews, contact:

Mahala Strohfeldt, Media Manager, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples: 0457 877 408

Angela Dorizas, Australian Human Rights Commission: 0430 366529

This statement is supported by the following organisations:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda - Australian Human Rights Commission

Aboriginal Disability Network NSW

Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Services

Aboriginal Health & Medical Research Council of New South Wales

Advocacy Tasmania

Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation

All Together Now

Amnesty International



Arab Council Australia

Arnold Bloch Leibler

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council 

Australian College of Midwives

Australian Council of Social Services

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

Australian Football League Players Association

Australian Hellenic Council

Australian Human Rights Centre, UNSW. 

Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association

Australian Indigenous Psychologist Association (AIPA) 

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (IATSIS)

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Australian Medical Association (AMA)

Australian Physiotherapy Association

Australian Student & Novice Nurse Association

B’nai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission

Bisexual Alliance Victoria 

Bond University

Catholic Education South Australia

Centacare South West NSW

Centre for Multicultural Youth

Chinese Australian Forum (CAF)

Coleman Rail

Commission for Equal Opportunity South Australia

Commissioner for Children and Young People Victoria

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Communication Rights Australia

Confederation of Australian Motor Sport

Corrs Chambers Westgarth

Craig Edmonds Consulting Services


Cricket Australia

Deaths in Custody Watch Committee Inc WA

Disability Discrimination Legal Services

Diversity Council of Australia

Eastern Community Legal Centre

Edith Cowan University

Executive Council of Australian Jewry

Family Worker Training and Development Programme 

Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA)

Federation University

First Peoples Disability Network (Australia)

Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre

Flinders University

Football Federation Australia (FFA)

Goldfields Land and Sea Council

Healing Foundation

Human Rights Council of Australia

Human Rights Law Centre

Indigenous Allied Health Australia

Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS 

Justice Connect

Know the Game


Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation


Liberty Victoria

Marrickville Council

Melbourne High School

Menzies School of Health Research

Mildura Rural City Council


Muru Marri, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, UNSW Australia

Naracoorte Lucindale Council

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Health Worker Association

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHO)

National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Association

National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Physiotherapists

National Association of Community Legal Centres

National Australia Bank

National Centre for Indigenous Excellence (NCIE)

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

National Native Title Council

National Rugby League (NRL)

Netball Australia – Julia Symons

Northside Community Service Association

NSW Aboriginal Land Council

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies 


Office of the Lord Mayor, City of Sydney

Oxfam Australia

People with Disability Australia Incorporated

Play by the Rules

Podmore Foundation

Professor Tom Calma AO – founding Chair of the Close the Gap Campaign

Public Health Association of Australia

Public Transport Ombudsman VIC


Queensland Anti Discrimination Commission

Queensland Association of Independent Legal Services (QAIL)

Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane –
Australian Human Rights Commission

Randwick City Council


Reconciliation Australia

Reconciliation South Australia

Red Dust Role Models

Refugee & Immigration Legal Centre

Refugee Council of Australia

Richmond Football Club

Save the Children


SCALES Community Legal Centre 

Scanlon Foundation

Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care

Settlement Services International

Shire of Katanning

Sisters Inside

Skilled Migrant Professionals

So Change Inc

Softball Australia

St Vincent de Paul Society

Table Tennis Australia

TCL Drilling Australia

The Armenian National Committee of Australia

The Bridge of Hope Foundation Inc

The Castan Centre – Monash University

The Challenging Racism Project, University of Western Sydney

The Chinese Australian Services Society Ltd (CASS Group) 

The Construction Training Centre Qld

The Fred Hollows Foundation

The Lowitja Institute

The National Welfare Rights Network

The Passion of Purpose Group

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia

Transgender Victoria

Twitter Australia

Unions NSW

Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress

Uniting Church In Australia

University of South Australia -

Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Ltd

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service

Victorian College of the Arts

Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture

Walpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation

Welcoming Intercultural Neighbours

Whyndam Community and Education Centre

Wilin Centre

Wirrpanda Foundation

Women in Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN)

Women's Legal Services NSW

Yarraville Community Centre



Pictured: Adam Goodes and supporters at a 2014 Racism. It Stops With Me. Photoshoot.

Contact: Michelle Crisp

Phone: 7424 725