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The Role of Sports Bodies in Advocating for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament

More than 20 prominent Australian sport bodies have united in their support for a "yes" vote on the Indigenous Voice to parliament, a political issue that extends beyond the realm of athletics. Despite opposition from those who believe sports bodies should remain apolitical and focused solely on organizing competitions and managing athletes, these organizations have a responsibility to engage with the community and support various causes.

Sports bodies understand the importance of providing pathways and support for Indigenous people, considering it an integral part of their social responsibility. However, they have often failed to effectively champion the personal and professional development of Indigenous players and grant them a voice in the running of their workplaces. Instances of racism experienced by Indigenous athletes further highlight the need for improvement within sports organizations.

While sport bodies recognize the value of Indigenous athletes for their talent, their commitment extends beyond mere opportunities. Many have implemented Reconciliation Action Plans and incorporated Indigenous cultures into major sporting events' pre-match ceremonies, such as the Welcome to Country. Additionally, dedicated Indigenous rounds in prominent leagues demonstrate their dedication to Indigenous wellbeing and community engagement.

Given their commitments to Indigenous causes and community involvement, it is logical for sports bodies to publicly support the Voice proposal. However, the extent to which these organizations genuinely uphold the ideals outlined in the Uluru Statement from the Heart remains a complex question, as recent investigations into historical racism in the AFL have shown.

The involvement of sport organizations in social and political causes is not new in Australia. The support they showed for the same-sex marriage vote serves as a recent example, driven by their core values of cultural diversity and inclusion. Nevertheless, it is important to note that not all members of the sporting community share the same viewpoint, with some religious fundamentalists opposing such campaigns.

Regarding the Voice campaign, sports bodies have undertaken their own due diligence to finalize their positions. For instance, the AFL conducted educational seminars and anonymous polls among staff and players to align its stance with that of its workforce. This process involved consultation rather than indoctrination, as demonstrated by inviting Nyunggai Warren Mundine, a leader of the "no" campaign, to speak at Collingwood Football Club.

Although there have been athletes who publicly campaigned against the same-sex marriage proposal, there is currently no equivalent opposition from athletes regarding the Voice. This has led to frustration among "no" campaigners who believe that sports should not take a stance on political matters. However, it is worth considering whether they would hold the same opinion if sports bodies supported a "no" vote.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard argues that sports bodies should refrain from taking a stand on the Voice, emphasizing that voting is an individual matter and leagues cannot speak on behalf of individuals. Opposition Leader Peter Dutton shares a similar perspective, accusing sports leagues like the AFL and the NRL of lecturing fans as "elites" without proper consultation.

Nevertheless, this viewpoint fails to recognize the evolving nature of sports management. Sports bodies today have mission statements that declare their contributions to society and acknowledge the support they must provide to groups and communities historically marginalized in the sporting culture of the nation.

While sports bodies voice their support for the Indigenous Voice to parliament, it is important for them to reflect on the representation and decision-making processes within their own organizations. Indigenous employees have often been excluded from crucial decision-making processes, despite being celebrated for their significant contributions to sports.

In summary, the involvement of Australian sports bodies in supporting the Indigenous Voice to parliament demonstrates their commitment to social responsibility and community engagement. However, the extent to which they genuinely address Indigenous representation within their own organizations is an important consideration in their advocacy.

Read the fuil article here.

Photo Courtesy The Conversation

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