Levelling the playing field

RACISM IN SPORT, WHERE TO FROM HERE?...Paul Briggs OAM, executive chairman of Kaiela Institute. Photo: Supplied

The 13th annual Dungala Kaiela Oration

By Deanne Jeffers

EACH year the Dungala Kaiela Oration challenges viewers to work towards creating a shared cultural identity that involves both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Keynote speaker, Josephine Sukkar AM’s oration, “Racism in sport: So where to from here?” highlighted the need for a national strategic approach to tackling systematic institutional racism, while reflecting on the power of Australian sports to change course.

Paul Briggs OAM, executive chairman of Kaiela Institute, acknowledged early on the first Aboriginal football team, the Cummeragunja Invincibles who were created in the 1890s, a time of colonisation, genocide and the great land grab.

Mr Briggs’ ongoing leadership in Aboriginal and sporting communities continues to pave a way for First Nations persons in the Goulburn Murray Valley to be involved and honoured in sports.

Ms Sukkar too shared many great stories of indigenous Australians in sports, and their battle to be represented on the sports field and respected for their ability and contribution.

This year at tennis competitions and the Tokyo Olympics, we as a nation rallied around Ash Barty, just as we did 21 years ago when Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame in Sydney and ten days later won gold.

Sports matter in Australia and we love our sporting heroes. Sir Douglas Nicholls, the first indigenous person to be drafted in the VFL and universally respected for his contributions to law and faith; tennis star, Evonne Goolagong, who learnt to play with a plank of wood and a lemon against a brick wall and went on to win titles around the world; or David Wirrpanda, a proud Yorta Yorta man who played for the West Coast Eagles and would become one of the country’s most influential people.

Bounds have been made by engaging governments, organisations and communities. With targeted funding and programming, this year at the Olympics a record number of indigenous Australians represented our nation, showing a step in the right direction.

AFL CEO, Gill McLachlan responded to Ms Sukkar’s oration, praising her thoughts and acknowledging that more needs to be done for Indigenous Australians.

“We need to force a change, waiting organically is waiting too long,” he said.
Changes include mandating that clubs countrywide have indigenous officers and adding more diverse people across all levels of sports for better representation and inclusion.

Mr Briggs said the Yorta Yorta people had taken a leading position in the Murray Goulburn region and nationally to achieve the goal of eradicating institutional racism.

“The 11-year runway to the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympics provides a unique opportunity to showcase to the world what can be achieved when the major institutions of sport come together to draw a line in the sand to end racism in sport, while at the same time inspiring First Nations and regional athletes to excel.”

RACISM IN SPORT, WHERE TO FROM HERE?…Paul Briggs OAM, executive chairman of Kaiela Institute. Photo: Supplied