After Collingwood Football Club’s Do Better report found the club had cultivated a culture of systemic racism and prompted an early resignation from club president Eddie McGuire, Jodie Sizer (as the only Aboriginal member of the board) has been looked to by many as the way forward.

A strong Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman, Sizer is dedicated to proving that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices belong in positions of power.

Sizer was born and raised in Victoria’s Ballarat. Her father was raised at Framlingham Mission along the Hopkins River.

The eldest of five children, Sizer said she owes much of who she is today to her parents.

“My dad instilled much of the fire in my belly and the moral compass in which we fight the fight. I could not think of a stauncher warrior than my dad … full of mischief and would do anything for the struggle,” she said.

“My mum brought to me the dedication and commitment to not only doing the right thing but the values of caring for people that you bring along with you.”

A certified practising accountant, graduate of multiple leadership programs and co-founder and co-CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers Indigenous Consulting, Sizer always knew she wanted to be an advocate for mob.

Sizer has long been dedicated to empowering First Nations people within governance.

She was an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Regional Councillor, and in 2019 she was appointed chair of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

She also established the Australian Indigenous Governance Institute alongside fellow Aboriginal leaders Mick Dodson, Jason Glanville and Tanya Hosch.

“Governance is important because it exercises decision-making, and you have that real opportunity to lead the change where it is required and where the potential is great,” she said.

While Sizer said she has seen pockets of progress throughout her time in the governance space, she fears the pace of change is not fast enough.

“I see a shift in that we are having the conversation, but it feels like for me, the cogs are moving too slowly,” she said.

“At the heart of all that, I think the truth is that we find it hard to embrace because we are all scared of the ‘R word’. There is racism and it plays a big role in our country.”

Now on the board at the Collingwood Football Club, Sizer was the first Aboriginal woman to be appointed to a Victorian AFL board and Collingwood’s fourth female director since the club’s establishment in 1892.

Sizer vowed the club was dedicated to building a better future with the release of the Do Better report.

“There is a history that has been very painful, and has impacted on others, caused harm to others … I am incredibly sorry for the harm that has been caused,” she said.

“There is absolute commitment and a unified position on the board — as soon as we received the report it was adopted with all recommendations endorsed. The foot is on the pedal.”

The work Collingwood has commenced will set a precedent for the club, the AFL community and Australia.

“From the report’s perspective … we have a 12- month implementation plan. We know our next step is to appoint an expert committee on anti- racism,” she said.

“Sometimes this stuff gets put in the ‘too hard basket’ because people are paralysed by the fear of doing the wrong thing. Sometimes there is blatant denial of the existence of racism and the need to address it, sometimes it is ignorance,” she said.

“We want to use the report as a launching pad for doing great work. With our partners like Nike and Dardi Munwurro, we have endless potential in what we can do.”

With a big journey ahead, Sizer said it was her daughters and her community who inspired her.

“They keep you accountable, they keep you standing upright,” she said.

“What gets you out of bed is the commitment to a better future, future for your kids and everyone’s kids.”

By Rachael Knowles