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Making the AFL a safer workplace for all

  • 14 July 2020
My mother’s side of the family contains several generations of Collingwood supporters. These were old school Collingwood types — working class white folks that earnt a crust in the many factories which were dotted around the area and now mostly contain luxury apartments. Family tradition continues now — my mother and father have tried to ‘claim’ my nephews and niece for their team and Collingwood is winning out over Geelong, no matter how much my Arrernte father states that the ‘great Polly Farmer’ changed his life.

As for myself though, while I will always be ‘Collingwood’, it seems I will simply never again sit down and enjoy the skill of the (men’s) game without feeling deeply uncomfortable. My entire childhood was filled with stories on how Collingwood was the team of the underdog, the workers, the immigrants (think the Pannam dynasty). Collingwood supporters were people picked on because we were seen as uneducated and too poor to afford dental work. Yet while that image is very much still part of how Collingwood supporters proudly see themselves, the team dedicated to giving Australian society’s underdogs a go has not existed for a very long time.

The past couple of weeks have seen the racism former Collingwood great Heritier Lumumba endured while at the club hitting the headlines. This is not the first time Lumumba’s allegations have been in the news — they featured in the 2017 documentary film Fair Game and they also received some coverage at the time. It may be six years since Lumumba left the club, but on seeing Collingwood ‘taking a knee‘ in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement at their game against Richmond, he saw an opportunity to broach an hypocrisy which had long gone unaddressed.

Speaking to SBS’ The Feed in response to this gesture by Collingwood, Lumumba said, ‘Let's talk about Black lives. And let's talk about how it was clear that my black life didn't matter to you at the time that I was at the club’. This interview followed a nine point statement Lumumba released via Twitter talking not only of individual racism he encountered at the club but also how he tried to address a series of systemic problems and was not only unsupported, but also at times shutdown and gaslit.

Many supporters may have been surprised by Lumumba’s comments, instead believing Collingwood’s gesture was compassionate and noble, reflecting care at a time when the