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AFL Players' Association Report Reveals Troubling State of Racism in the Game

In the world of Australian Rules Football, a concerning state of affairs has been revealed regarding the handling of racism within the leagues. According to a recent report by the AFL Players' Association, more than three-quarters of Indigenous and multicultural AFLW players who reported experiencing racism felt that their concerns were not adequately addressed. The report, which examined the 2022 men's season and AFLW season seven, shed light on the prevalence of racism and the challenges faced in addressing the issue.

Last year, the AFLPA's first Insights and Impact report already highlighted dissatisfaction among players regarding the handling of their experiences. Unfortunately, the latest edition of the report released this week paints a similar picture. The survey, which included feedback from 78 Indigenous and multicultural players, revealed that 32% of AFL players and 30% of AFLW players had experienced racism throughout their careers. Shockingly, 14% had endured such incidents within the 12 months leading up to the survey.

The past year has been marred by instances of racism in the sport, including the Hawthorn racism saga, historical claims of racism, and fan-to-player racial incidents. In response to these incidents, the AFL implemented measures such as a policy to ban fans found guilty of racial incidents from attending games. However, the report suggests that the response to racism within the industry has been inadequate. The survey found that 40% of AFL players and a staggering 77% of AFLW players were dissatisfied with how their experiences of racism were handled once reported.

One significant concern highlighted in the report is the fear among players of speaking out about incidents of racism due to potential consequences. Players often feel threatened and believe that a culture of silence permeates the industry. The report emphasizes the need for open communication and the creation of a safe space for players to voice their concerns. It calls for the establishment of a culture of openness and accountability to pave the way for a better future for all involved in the AFL.

In response to these issues, the AFLPA has developed a Human Rights Framework and expanded its Indigenous Advisory Board. The association has also provided cultural awareness and training on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture to key stakeholders. This includes sessions on structural racism for executives, coaches, and staff at the AFL/AFLPA's Indigenous and Multicultural Players' Summit. A report with recommendations from the summit is expected to be delivered to relevant stakeholders, aiming to further address the challenges faced in combating racism within the sport.

The findings of this report serve as a wake-up call for the AFL industry, highlighting the urgent need for action to tackle racism and ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all players.

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