An alliance in the works since 2017, the Indigenous Players Alliance (IPA) held its inaugural Annual General Meeting (AGM) Wednesday.

Chaired by former Fremantle Docker and Brisbane Lion, Des Headland, the meeting saw members linking in via livestream from across the country.

Headland, a proud Noongar/Yamatji man, spoke of the ongoing importance of the IPA, referencing documentary films The Australian Dream and The Final Quarter in further boosting awareness of the continued racism in sport, particularly the AFL.

“The IPA has never been more needed than now,” Headland said to members at the meeting.

Des Headland speaking at the IPA inaugural AGM. Photo by Hannah Cross.

With over 200 current and former Indigenous players in the AFL, the IPA is already 105 registered members strong and is continuing to grow.

“It’s been exciting at times but it’s also been tough, too … with the Adam Goodes documentaries coming out … there’s still a lot of racism happening,” said Headland.

The former Docker and Lion is thrilled to finally have an official platform to give current and former Indigenous players “a good standing point to really create that change”.

“We want to be a proactive organisation to make sure we’re on the front foot,” he said.

“Advocacy is key—it’s speaking up for our members and [them] knowing they’ve got more than one voice, a backing.”

For Headland, the IPA is about being a “legitimate and credible voice speaking out when it’s needed”.

To lead that voice is the new IPA board, who were elected at the meeting. Until now the IPA has operated with an interim board.

Foundation members and former players Des Headland, Kevin Caton, Chance Bateman, Peter Matera and Kirby Bentley were appointed to the board.

Kim Farmer, daughter of the late, great Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, current AFLW Fremantle Dockers player Gemma Houghton and former Brisbane Lions player, Darryl White were also appointed.

Moving forward, the IPA will operate with an all-Indigenous board with three women and one current player.

The IPA plans to implement programs for Indigenous AFL hopefuls as well as programs out in community.

After running a successful sports program at WA’s Banksia Hill Juvenile Correctional Centre, the IPA has hopes to further expand these types of programs nationally.

The Alliance also has plans to better assist former players in transitioning out of the AFL into employment, coaching or whatever other pathway they choose.

“It’s also about player agency, looking after players and future players, having that wrap around service,” said Headland.

After appointing their first board and hosting a successful AGM during a pandemic, Headland said the IPA is set to move forward in a positive way.

“Now we’re ready to launch.”

By Hannah Cross