The Australian Football League is one of Australia’s most popular, well-funded and privileged sporting codes in Australia. It’s the country’s national game and receives substantial amounts of taxpayers’ money.
So you’d think it only appropriate that the code mark the death of the Queen of Australia in the customary way by holding a minute’s silence before the games in the weekend after her death.
The AFL certainly thought so, mandating a minute’s silence for all games last weekend. But it scrapped the minute’s silence for the AFL Women’s League games after clubs complained it was “insensitive” to hold a minute’s silence during the AFLW’s Indigenous round.
The Western Bulldogs club released a statement referring to the “significant and ongoing feelings of hurt within Indigenous communities that stems from colonisation and what the monarchy represents since that time.”
I’m a little tired of white people and woke organisations speaking for Aboriginal people and assuming to know what Aboriginal people think and feel.
I am Aboriginal and I support an Australian Republic. I also have Irish heritage and could find plenty of things in Britain’s historical treatment of the Irish to take issue with. Nevertheless, I believe it is entirely proper for Australia’s national sporting code to show respect to Australia’s Head of State on her passing.
Sir Douglas Nicholls was an Aboriginal leader, a campaigner for Aboriginal equal rights and self-determination — and a great Australian. He wasn’t shackled by feelings of hurt about colonisation. He just set out to make a difference.
He was a representative of the Queen, being appointed Governor of South Australia in 1976. He twice received Queen’s Birthday honours ‘for distinguished services to the advancement of the Aboriginal people’ and reportedly said that MBE stood for ‘more black than ever’.
He was also a great Aussie Rules footballer, playing six seasons for Fitzroy in the 1930s and four interstate games; the first Aboriginal player selected for the Victorian state team. I don’t believe Doug Nicolls would have felt hurt or aggrieved at observing a minute’s silence before a football game as a mark of respect for the Queen. Quite the opposite.
Aussie Rules football is one of the toughest games in the world. How could anyone who plays or follows it be triggered by anything?
I’m also tired of this culture of victimhood where people gain social standing through being ‘wronged’ and Aboriginal people are condemned to disparity from birth, no matter what — even young people who’ve never lived under any discriminatory laws and have grown up with a country bending over backwards to end Aboriginal disadvantage.
For the first 13 years of my life, I lived under segregation imposed by the Aborigines Protection Act and the Aborigines Welfare Board that administered it. Similar regimes existed all across Australia. My parents lived under these rules for around half a century.
Yet my parents never considered themselves to be victims or oppressed, and they raised my siblings and me to think the same way.
Young Aboriginal people will be ruined by the mindset that every problem Aboriginal people suffer today — be it higher incarceration rates, disparities in education and employment, health problems, even family violence — is explained by history’s wrongdoings and traumas of colonisation supposedly continuing through current generations.
The mindset I was raised with was the opposite: that we can decide our path. Despite living under actual systemic racism, my parents wouldn’t let that hold them back. To my parents, thinking of yourself as a victim was a weakness.
They didn’t wait for government to give them self-determination. They took it; made their own decisions; took responsibility for their own life. Which is the whole point.
This mindset is the only way Aboriginal people can break from the shackles of the past. It used to be the norm. But these days, Aboriginal people with this mindset are often dismissed as exceptions.
The Queen played no part in Britain’s actions and decisions of centuries ago. Her reign saw the end of the British Empire and the creation of a voluntary Commonwealth of independent nations that now come together as equals. She has, in fact, presided over decolonisation in the truest sense of the word.
It’s a joke that the AFL’s Indigenous rounds are supposed to be about reconciliation. No act of reconciliation will achieve anything if people can’t move on from the past and if victimhood is seen as virtuous.
And there can be no reconciliation if Indigenous Australians are treated like they aren’t Australians and can’t show respect to Australia’s Head of State.
Nyunggai Warren Mundine is Director of the Indigenous Forum at the Centre for Independent Studies.