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Supporting Indigenous Footballers







Framework Outline




Recruitment of a Player


Living Arrangements


Our Culture


Cultural Considerations


Personal Support


Professional Development


Individual Development Plan





Disclaimer When considering the appropriateness of these guidelines for your organisation or circumstances, please note that these guidelines are general in nature and do not take into account every individual situation or circumstance.

INTRODUCTION Even though I have been playing football for nearly two decades, that first year of transitioning into the AFL and the challenges I encountered are still very clear memories for me.

The AFL Players’ Association aims to ensure that all of our members work in environments that promote sporting excellence at the same time as long term personal growth and wellbeing.

The demands that the game places on you – both on and off field – are immense for all players. For Indigenous players, however, the inevitable stresses can be even greater.

We believe that every player in the AFL deserves the opportunity to develop skills to manage both the demands of the game and the transition into meaningful postfootball vocations.

I attended the AFL Players’ Indigenous Camp held in Alice Springs earlier this year and listened to the various experiences of the 69 Indigenous players. What was clear from the many accounts was that we needed best practice guidelines available to encourage a consistent level and type of support for Indigenous players across all clubs.

Our game boasts a wonderfully rich heritage of contributions of young Indigenous men who have thrilled fans with their talent but also encouraged Australians to think deeply about the social issues surrounding race, culture and society.

In response, the guidelines the Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board has developed are based around four key pillars – Induction, Culture, Personal Support and Professional Development. Within each of these key pillars we have developed best practice suggestions on how to support Indigenous players’ transition into the game, while also assisting in the personal and professional development of players while they are in the game. The guidelines also outline ways to support our Indigenous culture and increase the level of cultural awareness in the industry. All Indigenous players deserve an equal opportunity to succeed. For these guidelines to have an impact and to generate positive change, the support of all stakeholders is a must. It is now more than 20 years since Nicky Winmar stood up against racism in sport; with just one simple gesture.

The Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board is the first of its kind in Australian sport and was established by players with the aim of continuing to improve the AFL landscape for Indigenous players. I’m really proud that our current crop of players are continuing to provide leadership for our industry on how we can ensure that future generations of Indigenous players enjoy successful careers and lives through footy. These guidelines are a terrific initiative born out of the 2013 Indigenous Camp and I applaud the Advisory Board for the dedication and commitment they have demonstrated in the process of their development. Many of the strategies referred to in these guidelines are derived from existing initiatives already being undertaken by some AFL Clubs.

Endorsement of these guidelines in every club is another simple, yet powerful gesture that can leave a lasting, positive and much needed legacy in both the game and society.

By combining these “best practices” into one source I am confident these guidelines will empower clubs to support our leading Indigenous players pave the way for their “brothers of tomorrow”.

Adam Goodes Chair, Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board

Matthew Finnis Chief Executive Officer, AFL Players’ Association


MANY STORIES, ONE GOAL. Supporting Indigenous Footballers

heightened awareness and understanding of the range of cultural issues facing Indigenous players. A range of recommendations were made based on the findings of this research, including: the establishment of Indigenous Liaison Officers at all clubs; Cultural Awareness Training to be implemented across all clubs and administrations; engagement with local Indigenous services; and greater acknowledgement of NAIDOC and promotion of Indigenous Round. Consultation with current Indigenous footballers by the Players’ Association further identified a need to provide industry stakeholders with guidance of best practice to support Indigenous footballers to maximise their football careers.

AIM OF GUIDELINES In response to this evidence base and recommendations, the Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board felt it necessary to develop guidelines to ensure consistent support processes for all players. The aim of such guidelines would be to:



Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board

Many of our talented young Indigenous footballers participate in AFL pathways across Australia. It is vital these pathways invest in understanding each player to make certain every opportunity is made in establishing a football career within the AFL.

During the 2011 Indigenous Camp, the playing group agreed to create an Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board to become the voice of all Indigenous players within the Australian Football League (AFL). The Board consists of a minimum of one Indigenous player representative from Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales and four representatives from Victoria. 2013 Board Members are: • Adam Goodes – Chairman (NSW) • Shaun Burgoyne (VIC) • Aaron Davey (VIC) • Lance Franklin (VIC) • Jarrod Harbrow (QLD) • Graham Johncock (SA)


• Michael Johnson (WA) • Nathan Lovett-Murray (VIC)

The Centre for Aboriginal Studies at Curtin University in Western Australia recently conducted a body of research titled “Expectations, Experiences and Reflections of Indigenous Footballers: Transitioning in and out of the AFL”1. Assisted by the AFL Players’ Association, the researcher, Dr Sean Gorman, conducted interviews with 25 players from three different cohorts – WAFL Colts (under 18), current AFL players and retired AFL players. The research found that increased investment by all stakeholders in the AFL is required to ensure that greater cross cultural awareness, educational opportunities and support is provided for Indigenous players. In addition, the research highlighted the need for stakeholders to have a

• Ensure all Indigenous players are supported consistently, regardless of the club to which they are drafted; • Assist clubs to gain an understanding of the Aboriginal culture through the eyes of players and Indigenous Australians; and • Provide the support required to retain Indigenous players in the AFL system and maximise their careers in the game. Four key areas were identified as crucial points of support for Indigenous players, both upon their arrival into the AFL and during their football career. These key areas included: 1. Induction – Supporting Indigenous players’ to transition into the game 2. Personal Support – Individual development and off field support for players 3. Professional Development – Career transition, education and vocational skills for players 4. Our Culture – Cultural education and awareness guidance for industry stakeholders.

• Patrick Ryder (VIC) 1

Gorman, S. (2012). Expectations, Experiences and Reflections of Indigenous Footballers: Transitioning in and out of the AFL. Centre for Aboriginal Studies: Curtin University, WA.



Supporting Indigenous players’ to transition into the game


Individual development and off field support for players


• Engagement with player’s community • Mentor partnership • Transition resources • Living arrangements


• Family support • Financial guidance • Optimising personal wellbeing • Life skills training



PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT Career transition, education and vocational skills for players



• Cultural leave guidelines • Industry cultural awareness training requirements • Genuine engagement in Indigenous events • Indigenous Players support roles • Reconciliation Action Plan development

MANY STORIES, ONE GOAL. Supporting Indigenous Footballers


• Individual development plans • Education opportunities • Work placement and pathway opportunities • Developing baseline skills

Cultural education and awareness guidance for industry stakeholders

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Induction – Supporting Indigenous players to transition into the game



Induction process Engagement of a suitable senior Indigenous player into the induction process is recommended. The involvement of another Indigenous player in the process helps to break down any communication barriers and to allow for ongoing conversation between both players. It is also suggested that a family member be invited to be involved in parts of the induction process. In addition to providing support for the player, a family member or nominated support person involvement also assists in educating the family on the commitment that is required by the player, and the level of understanding and support needed by the family/community.

Recruitment of a player Visit to home community Prior to drafting a player to a club, the process of engaging with a potential draftee’s community and family needs to commence. Recruitment staff must be conversant in a range of possible issues that impact or have the potential to impact on the player. In addition, the recruiters need to know and be aware of verbal and non-verbal cues, the way indirectness and ambiguity can play a role in asking questions and receiving answers, and how these may be interpreted. This is of key importance when drafting Indigenous players. Following drafting an Indigenous player to your club, it is recommended that a visit to the player’s community is organised. The purpose of this visit is to spend time with the player and their family, to understand the cultural expectations within the community and to create a meaningful relationship with key family members. It is suggested that the Player Development Manager (PDM) and a member of the football department attends. The visit should occur within four weeks of the player being drafted.

Developing a relationship with family member/s

Following the community visit, it is important that the club (ideally the PDM) creates a strong relationship and remains in regular contact with key members from the player’s family. By doing this, a trusted and valued relationship will be created which will benefit both the player and the club in the event of any issues. In addition to creating a strong relationship with family members, any opportunity to have these members travel to the club is encouraged. This allows the family to grow relationships and better understand the time commitment the player is required to uphold as a professional footballer. The process also assists the player with any home sickness, displacement or isolation issues that they may be experiencing and help mitigate any chance of them returning home or underperforming.

Induction resource The development of an educational resource to support family members is advised. The resource (for example, a DVD) could include information on what occurs on a day-to-day basis in a footballer’s life, the time commitment required by the player and how the family/community can best support the player. Ideally the experience of another Indigenous player would be incorporated into this resource. Such a resource would allow for the club to also demonstrate its first class facilities, programs and club in general. Guidelines of expectations Upon arrival at the football club, it is advised that the player be provided with a document that outlines expectations whilst employed by the club. A summarised document can then be provided to a family member or support person to assist with the family and community education process of what is being expected of their son. The document may include, but not be limited to: • football culture; • values; • informal learning; and • team guidelines.

M A N Y S T O R I E S , O N E G O A L . S u pp o r t ing I ndigen o u s F o o t ballers


A key objective of this visit to the player’s community is to reassure the family that the player will be looked after by the club and reinforce its obligations to the

draftee. This is important as the club will, in many cases, be seen as an extension of the draftee’s family. Further, this time is crucial as it allows for twoway dialogue to occur, letting the club explain some of the professional and social expectations they require of the player and for the player to inform the club of his family and cultural obligations. If there are still questions that have not been resolved to the club’s satisfaction regarding the new Indigenous recruit, it is strongly advised that the AFL Players’ Association be contacted to assist in the club’s enquiries.

During the induction process it is important to discuss items such as Sorry Business, cultural leave and significant dates on the Indigenous calendar (i.e. NAIDOC, Sorry Day, Reconciliation Week) to make certain the player and family acquire a sense of the club’s understanding towards their culture. It also allows for the club to gain a greater understanding of what support may be needed if the player is required to attend sorry business or significant cultural business (for example, men’s law or native title negotiations).

Club induction The development of a club induction kit is a great way to allow the player to understand the club and to revisit the information away from the club. The first few months as an AFL footballer can be a whirlwind experience, so providing the player with information to review at a later date can be beneficial. Providing the players with firm direction and guidance is crucial. It is important, however, to understand how the player will respond to different situations prior to settling on the best strategy to approach this. With a relationship built on trust, players will most likely understand and respond to firm direction and guidance positively. Additional considerations During the induction process, it is essential to gain an understanding of what support/ requirements the player might need to assist with daily travel and life (for example, driver’s license status, access to transport for training). Understanding the player’s needs is vital in preparing the player for life outside of their community. In some cases, this may be the first time the player will leave their home community for a long period of time. Assistance with requirements such as setting up accounts, paying bills, food shopping, cooking and other general living necessities is a must. It is also recommended that the club facilitates for the player to be introduced to the local Indigenous community. This connection may encourage the player to engage in cultural activities while away from their home community.

Living Arrangements Arrival at the club


Upon arriving at the club it is advocated that the Indigenous player lives with a senior Indigenous player on a short term basis whilst the host family is arranged. In some cases this may be for a period of up to two months. Such an arrangement enables the player to better adapt to AFL life in the early days. In the event where a senior Indigenous player isn’t available for the player to live with, allocating the player with a suitable senior player is advised. Communication with the new player on their living arrangement is important

as they need to feel as comfortable as possible in their new environment. If the player is unsure of the best arrangement for their needs, the club could consult with the player’s family. It is recommended that the club assesses the confirmed living arrangements two weeks after the player has relocated. Host family The player should be provided with an opportunity to be involved in selecting a host family. This will allow the player to choose an environment that best suits their needs and personality. If the player doesn’t feel able to contribute to this process, inviting a senior Indigenous player into the conversation to assist is encouraged. This will also allow for the senior player to check in with the player once settled as they will have knowledge of the host family. Following this selection, it is suggested that the player and host family meet prior to finalising the arrangements to further build on and cement their relationship and provide the player with a level of comfort. This meeting should be held in the club environment or at a neutral venue. Continuous discussions with the player will ensure the PDM understands how the player is feeling regarding their host family. In most cases the player will not initiate this conversation, therefore the club needs to lead these discussions.

“When I first came there it was a bit different. Back home we don’t sit around dinner tables we don’t even have a table at home. I was sitting at the dinner table [at host family] and I was like scared. I was getting shamed to eat. I was thinking this mob are probably looking at me eat. Now I just sit down and have a yarn about things. It probably took a couple of months until I got used to it. At home if we want a feed we get the rifle or the fishing line. We don’t have lunch time.”

If required, it is suggested that the host family complete cultural awareness training (specific to the player) prior to the player moving in. This will allow the host family to gain a better understanding of the Aboriginal culture prior to the player’s arrival.

Gorman’s (2012) findings from research into Indigenous players’ transition into the AFL indicated that it is common for players to not feel comfortable in raising any issues about living arrangements with the host family. It is therefore vital that the player feels they have someone to talk to about their living arrangements. This may be their mentor, player agent or a senior player they feel comfortable speaking openly to. The time spent with the host family offers the player a great opportunity to develop life skills. Having the player assist with cooking and planning meals helps them prepare for life after their first year in the AFL.

“It was difficult. They obviously didn’t know my background and the [AFL club] didn’t know my background so it was difficult. It was difficult being unable to feel comfortable. It was just little things like what they eat or what they do on the weekends is completely different to what I did with my family on the weekends and what my family ate.”

Family visits To eliminate home sickness for young players, it is advised that the club provides the player with an option to visit their family during the bye round and, if required, throughout the season (recommendation of twice a year). Early conversations regarding this should occur so the player is aware they will have an opportunity to visit family in the near future. It will be up to the club’s discretion as to whether this is at the expense of the club or player. When a player is returning to their community to visit family it is also important to remember that there may be some restrictions in training facilities. Family and community are held in high regard by Indigenous Australians and it is common for a player to become home-sick when away from their community. Clubs play an important role helping players through these challenging times. Engaging with the Indigenous player’s key figure in their life during selected times at the club can help in assisting the player to reduce their feelings of homesickness. In knowing when their next opportunity to visit home is, the player again has this to


look forward to and use as a goal setting device. Continuous communication with the player on how they are feeling may also reduce the possible impact of this.

Mentoring Developing a mentor program for Indigenous players to access is advised and this would ideally involve a group of Indigenous Australians – preferably a past player or someone who is known and respected by the player/s. The mentoring process should commence upon new players arriving at the club.

“They had a mentor program where the past players would help out. I had [past player] he’s an Indigenous bloke. I had him and all the other Indigenous boys had him and you could go and have a word to him. I reckon it was an important job for him to be in that role.”

The role of a mentor is to meet regularly (or when required) with the player to informally catch up and discuss several topics depending on what is happening in the player’s life.

In some cases the player may cancel a catch up or not show interest. Regardless, it is vital that both the mentor and club persist with this arrangement, as the mentor program has been identified as being of prime importance to the wellbeing and support of Indigenous players. If there is an opportunity to provide a senior Indigenous player with professional development (AFLSR/AFLPA Executive Certificate) to become a mentor to a new Indigenous player, it is important to facilitate this process in a formal way to ensure both players understand the expectations of the process. The senior player will need to have the respect of the playing group and the individual to make certain this is successful. Ongoing review of this process would be required with both the player and mentor. Engagement with other Indigenous players is an important component of the transition process into the AFL. Players have a strong desire to remain connected throughout the season. As a result, they may look to organise a regular dinner time/place to allow this connection to remain strong. Clubs are encouraged to support players in this area and assist in making this continued connection possible. Financial guidance Financial guidance will be very important for the player. In some cases this may be the first time the player has his own money and they may be the first of their

nuclear or extended family to have a job. In some extreme cases a player may be confronted with their family requesting money on a regular basis. This process of ‘sharing’ can be a deeply ingrained Indigenous cultural practice which revolves around social obligation and kinship responsibility. It is important that

“There’s certain people that are in the organisations that really don’t have an understanding of cultural issues. They want to see you do well and they’ll do whatever it takes to give you that opportunity but they couldn’t understand what culture means to me and my obligations. Their point of view is you play AFL footy. And I was too scared to tell them that I needed to go home. That was probably one of the difficult things because I started to become a frustrated footballer and I was taking that into my preparation which made me think about other things rather than doing my job.”

the club understands this on a case by case situation and is respectful of the player and his family’s wishes. In this particular case, the club would be encouraged to arrange for the player to develop a budget to assist with financial management, stressing to them the availability of club assistance if they are experiencing hardship.

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It is critical that the mentor and the club allow time for this relationship to develop. Indigenous players appreciate this kind of support, however the relationship will need to be built around trust and respect. Investing time into this area

is extremely important and will allow for successful outcomes both on and off the field.


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Our Culture – cultural education and awareness guidance for industry stakeholders

» “We’ve all got different aspects in life where things change and people have got to deal with things and with the Aboriginal boys it’s a little bit different than the rest of the playing group. Like sometimes our [Indigenous] boys have to go to funerals and stuff and might have to miss a few days and when they come back the boys will be going ‘where did you go to?’ I think this is where we need to get better as a football club. Sometimes [Indigenous] boys are going to go missing for a while because of family issues or different things.

CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS Cultural leave Cultural leave is an important factor to be considered when engaging with Indigenous players. Cultural leave can be required for: • Sorry Business; • Tribal Law; • Men’s Business; and The following provides an overview of each of these cultural areas. Sorry Business Bereavement, known as Sorry Business, is a very important part of Aboriginal culture. Sorry Business concerns time after the death of a member of their community. As with many cultures and communities around the world, death in a community is respected in different ways. Indigenous Australia is made up of many groups, tribes and clans that share similar protocols for the period of mourning for a deceased Aboriginal person. One such protocol is to not to mention the name of the deceased as a sign of respect. The Sorry Business time period may differ between communities, ranging anywhere from two days, a week or in some cases a year. Sorry Business should be discussed during the induction period to ensure the club understands the tradition and what may occur for that particular community and individual.

Tribal law Tribal law often differs between individual communities, yet many of the laws are sacred and not to be spoken about with anyone outside of a given community. Aboriginal laws are also part of an oral culture, therefore no written code of customary laws exists. Given the requirements of tribal law within the Aboriginal culture, a player may be required to travel back to the community to attend a particular hearing. It is important for a club to understand that a player may have additional responsibilities with their community if they are an initiated man. Initiation ceremonies are carried out when boys achieve the status of men. The initiation ceremony differs from culture to culture but often involves sacrifice. The ceremony and the preparation in the lead up involves the learning of sacred songs, stories, dances, and traditional lore. Many different clans will assemble to participate in an initiation ceremony. Men’s Business The term ‘Business’ describes the relational processes associated with specific patterns and movements within and between communities. It is used to describe the responsibilities and obligations of both Indigenous men and women. Men’s Business is in general a private, cultural experience. Sacred rituals only involve invited men, with the ritual itself varying from community to community. Family Family is the cornerstone for Indigenous identity. This is closely tied in with connections to country and skin groups and the birth rites that go with them. The Indigenous family structure also differs in many ways to the non-Indigenous family structure. As a result, social obligation

and kinship requirements for Indigenous Australians are greater given the larger and more complex family structure. For example, in non-Indigenous society the mother is seen as the woman who has given birth to you. In Indigenous culture the sisters of one’s birth mother are also seen and accepted in the same way as a birth-mother. The same view applies to fathers, sisters and brothers. It is for this reason that a player may need to return home for his third ‘father’s’ funeral in two years. In some instances it is the grandmothers and grandfathers who do the bulk of the child rearing. Extended family cousins are also seen as cousin-sisters and cousinbrothers, once again making the ‘nuclear’ family somewhat bigger.

“I didn’t really grow up with Mum and Dad. I was raised with my Nan. She knew I could play but she didn’t really expect that much from me because all my cousins were there too. It [growing up] wasn’t easy at all. Nan had a lot of kids living with her. She was the foster carer for all the family. She’d like have 4 kids in 1 room and kids living in the lounge room and what not. Probably about 10 kids all up.” Clan diversity A lack of understanding in the diversity of Indigenous clans and language/skin groups may be an issue in many clubs. Simple ways of communicating from a nonIndigenous perspective are not compatible from an Indigenous perspective. It will take time for the mentor, if they are not Indigenous, to understand this. The club’s Indigenous past players are a rich resource when it comes to community, understanding and advice in this area. It is important therefore to keep an up to date database of Indigenous past player’s numbers and addresses.

Indigenous Round Promotion of the Indigenous round from all clubs is advocated. Having all clubs engaging and developing activities in conjunction with Indigenous round will maximise the opportunities to deliver positive messages regarding Indigenous

M A N Y S T O R I E S , O N E G O A L . S u pp o r t ing I ndigen o u s F o o t ballers


Trust is an important factor when discussing Sorry Business. Open communication between the individual and club is necessary. The club may also wish to make contact with an elder from the player’s community to clearly understand

how the club can support the player during Sorry Business.


Australians and the support for our Indigenous players in the AFL. Possible club initiatives for Indigenous Round include: • Invite the Indigenous player’s parents to the match. • Hold an Indigenous past player function. • Place the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on player jumpers. • Hold cultural awareness training for staff and players during this time.

Involvement in Indigenous events is an excellent way to increase cultural awareness. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander event dates during 2013 included: • Survival Day – 26 January • National Apology Day – 13 February • Harmony Day – 21 March

• Engage Indigenous players in the planning of the Indigenous round.

• National Closing the Gap Day – 21 March

• Develop a video on what it means to be involved in Indigenous round as an Indigenous and non-Indigenous player. The video could be played on the main screen during the match or placed on your club website.

• National Sorry Day – 26 May

• Display the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags at the match and at the club. • Develop a website banner to display during Indigenous round week. • Organise for cultural dance to be performed prior to the game. • Arrange for a traditional food stall to be running during the match. Cultural awareness training A proactive approach to cultural awareness is critical for a club to be inclusive. Regular cultural awareness training needs to be conducted within each club, ideally at least once a year. Upon developing this training program, the club could consider including Indigenous players in the planning and decision making on what would be required for the playing group and staff members. As an example, you may invite players to tell their story or to present a component of the cultural training. Engaging with your Indigenous players to better understand their interest to be involved will allow players to feel there is an opportunity to be engaged with the process and drive it. There are a number of companies that conduct cultural awareness training for organisations. For assistance in selecting a provider, contact can be made with the Players’ Association.


Indigenous events

NAIDOC Week NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements

• National Reconciliation Week – 27 May – 3 June • MABO Day – 3 June • Coming of the Light – 1 July • National NAIDOC Week – 7 July – 13 July • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day – 4 August • International Day of the World’s Indigenous People – 9 August There are other Indigenous events and activities held throughout the year with a football focus that clubs can engage with. These include: • Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI) centre • The Long Walk • Clontarf Foundation • Wirrpanda Foundation

of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. NAIDOC originally stood for ‘National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee’. This committee was once responsible for organising national activities during NAIDOC week and its acronym has since become the name of the week itself.

NAIDOC Week provides a great opportunity for clubs to demonstrate their commitment to Indigenous Australians, along with recognising the local Aboriginal community. As an example clubs may write a website article, arrange for Indigenous players to conduct player appearances at local Aboriginal communities and get involved within local Aboriginal activities during this week. Reconciliation Action Plan Reconciliation focuses on building stronger relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the wider Australian community. AFL clubs play a critical role in this vision by becoming leaders on the reconciliation journey. In creating a healthy environment for players, it is advocated that each club develop a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). Developing a RAP enables your club to connect with the wider Indigenous Australian communities and build strong relationships with Indigenous Australians. Reconciliation Australia is the national organisation promoting reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the broader Australian community, and they can provide assistance in developing a RAP. Reconciliation Australia has supported over 300 organisations in developing a RAP, and does so by allocating a project officer to assist with the steps of establishing the plan. Further information can be found at: Indigenous employment in the AFL By increasing the representation of Indigenous Australians in the football workplace – from board positions, to executive management and coaching – a greater understanding of Indigenous culture and support for Indigenous players will be achieved. Feedback gained by the Players’ Association has confirmed that the appointment of an Indigenous Officer within clubs is regarded as a priority by both the Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board and the current playing group. The purpose of this role would be to assist players with any off field concerns and to be in regular contact to best understand the needs of the player. This position would work in conjunction with the PDM to assist with the development of Indigenous players. Ideally the successful candidate

» would have a thorough understanding of Aboriginal culture and potential challenges for Indigenous players. The role of the Indigenous Officer would also be to develop the club’s Indigenous programs, develop the RAP and provide ongoing cultural awareness training to both players and staff. To date, the West Coast Eagles Football Club has employed a full time Indigenous Officer, and have had the position at the club since 2009. Three other clubs have engaged an Indigenous person to play such a role on a contracting basis.

Welcome to Country/ Acknowledgement to Country

A Welcome to Country is performed by a local Aboriginal person of significance to symbolise the traditional owners giving blessing to an event taking place on the land. The Acknowledgement of Country is usually a statement or speech to show respect to the traditional custodians of the land. It is best practice to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land before any formal meetings (for example, prior to the commencement of a board meeting or conference). Common wording for this acknowledgement is:

‘I would like to acknowledge that this meeting is being held on the traditional lands of the (appropriate group) people, and pay my respect to elders both past and present.’ Promotion Promotion of Indigenous programs and players is extremely important to educate the wider community of the outstanding work that clubs continue to deliver. Promoting your Indigenous players with their positive and inspiring stories will assist with changing some of the negative discussions in the media. Developing a promotion plan in conjunction with players helps build trust in the club’s ability and commitment to promoting their story. One suggested approach to aid promotion is to engage the club’s media team to write a number of article plans that can be promoted to media throughout the year. Potential stories could include a community visit the players have been involved in or centre around Indigenous celebrations and events. Indigenous Camp The Indigenous Camp is a well regarded event on any Indigenous footballer’s calendar. The purpose of this camp is to provide players with an opportunity to come together as a group to discuss


present and future priorities facing Indigenous footballers. This camp enables players to spend time with their ‘brothers’ and to feel a sense of cultural reconnection. The Indigenous Advisory Board and the playing group feel strongly that the Indigenous Camp should become compulsory for all Indigenous players to attend and that it be an annual event. The Association stress the importance of the engagement of clubs and players during this time. Having all players present for a number of days allows the Players’ Association to continue developing Indigenous programs to best support clubs in maximising their player’s career. Clubs are encouraged to send a number of key stakeholders (for example, PDM) to provide a greater understanding of Indigenous players and the Aboriginal culture. Additional cultural activities Indigenous players have expressed a desire to remain connected to cultural activities while away from home. Examples of such activities could include ‘going bush’ and hunting. This may be a wider group activity involving non Indigenous players.


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Personal Support – Individual development and off field support for players



have access to the support that is available within a particular area will benefit all parties involved. Research indicates that, in some cases, the player’s partner often experiences difficulties when relocating with the player. This is often due to being removed from their community and their family, in addition to not knowing anyone within the club or local community. It is suggested that the club drives inclusion within the club and facilitates the Indigenous player’s partner to engage with other player partners from the club. The club will need to persist with this process to allow the partner time to develop relationships and trust with the other members of the clubs. The outcome of this process, however, will play an important contributing role to the player having a balanced life. The AFL industry has a range of Indigenous program networks that can assist in introducing opportunities and access to networks, support structures and employment and training pathways. Partner absence

Family support A number of Indigenous players are parents to young children, and it is important to provide them with additional support to assist them and their family when relocating from remote communities. Providing support to these players is vital to ensure that both they and their partner feel supported, and to assist with any home sickness they may be experiencing. It is common for a player to be away from their partner and children/child for up to four weeks at a time during pre-season camp. Such a lack of family support when raising young children can become overwhelming for the player’s partner, and this in turn can create stress for the player.

Open communication with both the player and partner is an important factor. This will allow the club to understand the needs and suitable support required to assist the player and his family. Asking the player how the club can best provide support is a positive step in providing the right level and type of support. Support groups There are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support networks across the country that the club can assist the player and their family to engage with. Enabling the player and partner to understand and

Community/Lifestyle Requirements Basic skills It’s important to consider and assess the life skills and build upon the current skill sets to develop the overall wellbeing and life skills of the player. When a player arrives at the club, it is vital that these basic skills are taught (for example, paying bills, setting up a toll way account, buying public transport tickets). Further education regarding cooking, cleaning and dietary requirements is advised. Providing hands on experience with regular follow up will ensure the player learns the key fundamentals, and will allow them to develop confidence and a positive attitude.

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For Victorian based clubs, the Korin Gamadji Institute (KGI) centre based at the Richmond Football Club run a number of programs to support Indigenous player’s partners and are working more closely with the Players’ Association to provide further

opportunities to support players. Not limited to Richmond players or community, the KGI centre provides an opportunity for partners to meet and network with our AFL player partners who may be in a similar situation, together with a neutral facility for players and family to gather. KGI programs are broad and include a range of programs that support personal and career pathway aspirations.

Where the player’s partner is experiencing home sickness and moves back to the community, this places a large strain on the player and may affect his football focus. The club should discuss with the player how they can best support them during this situation. In some cases it may be beneficial for the club to allow the player or the player’s family to visit. This will allow the player to see their partner and or children to make certain they remain focussed on football.

“My primary motivation to play is because I love footy. My second one is that I know footy’s not going to be around all my life so if I want a house if I want to own my own car, if I want to own 3 or 4 houses I have to make sure I get to training and try my best.”

General Individual plans Development of individual plans should be compulsory for all players. The purpose of such a plan is to assist the player in understanding areas they may require development in. Individual plans also assist in preparing the player for life after football. Guidelines and expectations

Financial planning For many young players coming into the AFL it is the first time that they have a regular income.


It is important that each player receives ongoing financial guidance and planning assistance throughout their career. The Players’ Association provide the option for each player to meet with a financial advisor and discuss financial planning. It is recommended that a club representative or PDM ensure they are across these discussions so that they can provide further assistance if required.

“I’d like to own my house before I finish [playing]. I’m working really hard with that and it’s going along really well.”

Guidelines for young Indigenous players will be essential to ensure they understand their expectations and responsibility to the club. Regular communication with the player is vital in educating them on what is required. Clubs need to invest time into their Indigenous players immediately after they have been drafted to the club, to ensure that strong relationships and trust between the club and player is developed. Flexibility for the player to understand the expectations is needed. This may be the first time a player has been involved in a structured environment. Once again, regular communication along with clear direction will assist in developing a strong understanding of the expectations. Player manager Past experience of Indigenous players has indicated that a player manager is critical in supporting the development of players and preparing for life after football.

The player manager will be required to understand the player’s situation and background to allow the player to be represented as best as possible. Given this, it is important that they have an understanding of Aboriginal culture. In many cases the player will not be in the best position to appoint the best person to represent them. This may be due to their inexperience within this area and/or they may not have a senior person within their family who can assist them to make the right appointment. In this case, it is suggested the club assists the player in making an appointment. Time management Upon the player being drafted to the club, it is vital that the time management requirements of an AFL footballer are discussed with them in detail. In some cases, Indigenous players may benefit from additional guidance and should be factored into discussions. Past players When a player transitions out of the game, it is important for clubs to maintain contact and a connection with them to provide support on their new career path. While they are at the club, Indigenous players speak of the club as being their family. It is recommended that clubs consider any opportunities to keep the player engaged in the club at some level on an ongoing basis (for example, as a mentor for other Indigenous footballers).



» Professional Development – Career transition, education and vocational skills for players PAGE 17

M A N Y S T O R I E S , O N E G O A L . S u pp o r t ing I ndigen o u s F o o t ballers

Professional development Feedback indicates a strong desire from the Indigenous playing group to have clubs focus on assisting Indigenous players to engage in study or work placement while at the club. Players have noted that they would like to see this as a compulsory component for Indigenous players. Several opportunities are available for Indigenous players to engage in professional development with the AFL industry. At present, the AFL appoints 10 Indigenous Ambassadors annually to assist with a number of Indigenous programs. In addition, industry organisations offer current and past players with professional development opportunities through work placement and/or employment positions. Player development plan Development of an individual plan is critical for each player. This enables both the player and club to have a clear understanding of goals and expectations. Previous feedback from Indigenous players has indicated that such a plan is of benefit. Education Engaging in education opportunities is vital to support Indigenous players at the beginning, throughout and at the end of their AFL careers. It also ensures they are getting a healthy balance of on field and off field experience.


Regular communication with Indigenous players regarding their interests is important. It is vital to ensure the player has an understanding that there are a range of educational opportunities available depending on his needs and interest. The player needs to feel comfortable with the direction chosen and it needs to be made clear that there is additional support available, for example, a tutor if required. The AFL Players’ Career Skills Program assesses all players on their Literacy, Language and Numeracy skills. If further support is required the player is referred to a AFLPA Career Skills Consultant for development sessions designed to upskill in this area. Education can be delivered through placements and/or work experience. In some cases this may benefit Indigenous players not interested in studying or a player who is unsure of what industry they would like to work in.

The Players’ Association offer a range of education programs for all players, including: • Players’ Association Induction Camp • Players’ Association/AFLSR Football Induction Program (Cert III in Sport) and Vocational Pathway (Cert IV in Fitness, Management and Sport Development, and Diploma in Sport, and Management) • Next Goal Work Placements • Next Goal Trade Apprenticeships • Players’ Association/AFL Level II Coaches Course and Players’ Association/AFLSR Next Coach Program

and deliver three courses for Indigenous players looking to gain employment in a range of Indigenous community and education settings, or in organisations that run Indigenous community projects. AFL Sports Ready also provides a number of employment opportunities for Indigenous players to engage in Indigenous focussed education programs or placements. Further information on the above education options can be gained from and discussed in detail with the club’s Player Development Manager. Networking

• Manage My Money (Financial Education and Literacy Program).

In some cases, Indigenous Australians can be extremely shy. As a result, players may be unsure of how to network in a social environment. Focusing on development this area allows players to improve their networking skills and develop the confidence to engage with people outside of the industry.

In addition, the Players’ Association engaged RMIT University to develop

Patience in supporting the player in this area is important. Ongoing encouragement

• Retired/Delisted program • Career Skills Program • Career counselling

» will help the player to feel comfortable within networking environments over time and allow for the player to feel a sense of achievement.

and assists in encouraging an environment where the players feel comfortable.

There may be opportunities for the club to engage players in a trusted environment to network, possibly through club partnerships with sponsors or community partnerships. Understanding what the player has an interest in will help to select an avenue best for the individual.

Empowering the player to undertake public speaking may be a challenge at first, however research has proven the investment is worthwhile.

Life skills/responsibilities It is important to understand each player as an individual in order to recognise the areas of life skills support they require. Such an investment in the player will help them to settle into their new environment as quickly as possible. It is encouraged the club meet with the Indigenous player to discuss short term goals to assist the player in developing new life skills. Story telling Empowering the players to share their story is a great way to better understand their cultural background and to learn about their community. This also helps educate the playing group on Aboriginal culture,

Developing public speaking skills

Engaging players in school visits has been extremely successful with past/current players in developing this area. Briefing the players on their role during the visit is important to help the player understand the purpose of the visit and the impact/learning they can have if engaged in the activity. Another option is to create the opportunity for the player to speak in front of the playing group or a smaller group at first. This will provide the player with the confidence and encouragement to continue developing public speaking skills. Professional development It is vital that each player is engaged in professional development. The establishment of a professional development plan enables both the player and club to understand what the player is working towards off field.


Each Indigenous player is known as a community leader through their football career and it is imperative that we assist players to continue this status even after leaving the game. The Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board believes that players and clubs need to increase their focus on this area to ensure players have every opportunity to become up-skilled in their area of choice. Career development Through the programs offered by The Players’ Association, players have a range of opportunities available for them to prepare for life after football and experience a successful transition. Club support in encouraging involvement in these programs is crucial. A number of Indigenous players have indicated that a fear of failing makes them less likely to commit to such programs. Encouragement is the key to addressing this fear. Providing step by step support and assistance will help the player to feel more comfortable to step outside their comfort zone, engage and develop their skills. The role of the PDM is critical in this process.


fOOTbALL iNDuCTiON PrOgrAM (CErTifiCATE iii iN sPOrT) study


indigenous Mentoring


Certificate IV • Sports Development • Fitness • Business

• Introductory Work Experience Program – 4 Days • Work Placement Program – 20 Days

Certificate IV Education Support

AFL/AFLPA Level Two Coaching Course

Diploma • Sports Development • Management

Trade Apprenticeships

Diploma in Education Support

Coaching Work Placement

Executive Certificate

Coaching Pathway

Direct Entry into University or Employment


M A N Y S T O R I E S , O N E G O A L . S u pp o r t ing I ndigen o u s F o o t ballers



Projected Outcome

(How will I know I achieved it?)

Short Term Goal

What would I like to achieve?



Short and Long Term Goals



(What are the steps I need to take to achieve my outcome?)

Action Steps (What will I need to successfully achieve this goal?)

Resources Required

(When will I complete this goal?)

Target Completion Date

(How will I know I achieved it?)

What would I like to achieve?

M A N Y S T O R I E S , O N E G O A L . S u pp o r t ing I ndigen o u s F o o t ballers


Club Representative Signature:

Player Signature:

Projected Outcome

Long Term Goal (What are the steps I need to take to achieve my outcome?)

Action Steps (What will I need to successfully achieve this goal?)

Resources Required (When will I complete this goal?)

Target Completion Date


Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people sharing the football field together This artwork brings to life, through Indigenous storytelling, the work done by the AFL Players’ Association Indigenous Advisory Board to develop best practice guidelines to create an environment that best supports Indigenous footballers in the AFL. The artwork by Richard Walley is a football field and its colours and shapes reflect the importance of football to both Indigenous culture and its power in strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The red and white colouring of the field represents the involvement of the AFL Players’ Association and its Indigenous Advisory Board. The black and white symbolises Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people playing together on the one field. The red and yellow reflects the colour of the football during both day and night games. Of course the three colours featured in the painting; red, yellow and black, are consistent with the Aboriginal flag. The shapes within the field are boomerangs; representing attack, and shields; representing defence. The half-circle, or forward-50 arc in football terminology, to the left of the centre of the painting is the offensive goals, but when the painting is rotated 45 degrees to the right that same area designated with the thick band of black, depicts nourishment. The same area to the right or bottom of the painting when in the rotated position, reflects both the defensive goals and protection. Nourishment or maintaining livelihood of players and protection or duty of care are fundamentals of the best practice guidelines. Artist: Richard Walley OAM is a Nyoongar man and one of Australia’s leading Aboriginal performers, musicians and writers.

LEADERS OF TODAY FOR OUR BROTHERS TOMORROW – Indigenous Players’ Advisory Board Mission Statement

AUSTRALIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE PLAYERS’ ASSOCIATION Level 2, 170 Bridport Street, Albert Park, Victoria 3206 T: 03 8651 4300 F: 03 8651 4305 Twitter: @AFLPlayers Facebook:

Many Stories, One Goal  
Many Stories, One Goal