After the revelations of Collingwood Football Club’s Do Better report, questions are arising over the AFL-commissioned review into the league’s Indigenous Advisory Council.
The AFL has a rich history when it comes to the Indigenous community, the formation of the AFL Indigenous Advisory Council in 2015 signalled the intent to maintain strong partnerships.
In February 2020, the AFL commissioned a standard review into the operational effectiveness of the advisory council led by Peter Jackson, a long-time high-profile member of the AFL community who has significant experience with the business administration of clubs.
Following the recent release and controversy around the Do Better report, which concluded Collingwood had grown a culture of systemic racism, some were led to wonder where the Jackson review had gone, when it was going to be released, and what it was going to recommend.
Des Headland, an Indigenous former Brisbane Lions and Fremantle Dockers player, now Chair of the Indigenous Players Alliance (IPA), hoped that reform to the advisory council itself would see its demographics include past players.
“Where’s the voice of the players and past players?” Headland said.
“None of the current members of the [advisory council] are past players, none have come through the system.”
Headland said the experiences of Indigenous people who have come through the AFL’s system, from grassroots to the professional game, would be invaluable in maintaining and improving programs and relationships with Australia’s Indigenous communities.
He hopes the Jackson review will recommend all clubs implement and employ strong Indigenous Liaison Officers and programs — ILOs are currently not mandatory.
Headland said when clubs don’t have Indigenous liaison staff, the role gets left to senior Indigenous players.
“Senior Indigenous players pick up the slack. That’s the way it was when I played, that’s the way it still is,” Headland said.
Last week, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said there would be announcements concerning the result of the Collingwood report “in coming weeks”.
However, these announcements are expected to be separate from the Jackson review, instead focusing on longer-term aims such as updating the racial and religious vilification rule (rule 35).
NIT contacted the AFL regarding a timeline for the release of the Jackson review and their plans for implementing its recommendations, however, did not receive a response by time of publication.
By Aaron Bloch