Beyond the Boundary

The Australian Intercultural Society recently held a discussion on 'Diversity' in the Australian Football League (27th February 2020).

The discussion was moderated by Lauren Wood of the Herald Sun and featured Isabel Huntington of the Western Bulldogs, Ameet Bains (CEO, Western Bulldogs) and Brendon Gale (CEO, RFC).

The Australian Football League is doing much to become 'more inclusive', aka 'diverse', or at least 'less homogenous'. Gale emphasised this point. He spoke of his career, when the stereotype of the professional footy player was just like himself. Now, as CEO of the RFC, he is proud to see a more diverse playing list.

Gale clearly articulated that it is the responsibility of clubs to reflect the society in which they operate. If clubs don't represent the values and reality of their communities, they will become irrelevant. Gale also stated that it makes financial sense to become more diverse. And that even though 'clubs are not for profit organisations', they have to think like a business.

Isabel Huntington provided a players perspective on diversity. Huntington spoke of her pride in emerging as a professional player and playing a role in the normalisation of professional womens footy. Huntington stated her disappointment at the social media abuse experienced by players in the AFLW. She stated that no player should be abused for their identity. She said it was a reality that players cannot simply turn off or not look at social media; it is a part of their life too. Isabel referred specifically to the horrendous trolling of Tayla Harris.

This was a convivial occasion in which participants and audience alike clearly supported the Australian Football League's advocacy of 'diversity'. The question remains however, how will we deal with 'diversity' when we see it in action? How will we deal with it when we see 'expressions of diversity' questioning our own norms and ways of thinking? Perhaps one day, when see the winner of the Brownlow thank his male partner or express gratitude to Allah will we get a better reading of how inclusive and diverse we all are.