Friday, 31 July 2015

Adam Goodes

is an "Aussie Rules" footballer of mixed race heritage.  He has recently been the subject of what can only be described as vile behaviour by some football match attendees. I won't call them "fans" because lovers of the game don't do anything to jeopardise it or those who play it. Their behaviour is, quite simply, unacceptable. It has to stop.
Two years ago Goodes was chosen as "Australian of the Year" for his work in encouraging indigenous youth, especially in the field of sport.  It should have been a moment to celebrate. He was joining the likes of such great indigenous sportspeople as Lionel Rose, Yvonne Goolagong and Cathy Freeman in getting the award.
There have been some other great  indigenous Australians to get the award too. There are two I particularly admire, native title activist Galarrwuy Yunupingu and Senator Bonner. They were outstanding recipients who did great good. Lowitja O'Donoghue and Mick Dodson are also outspoken but respected recipients. 
But, from the time of his acceptance speech, I felt a mistake had been made with Adam Goodes. He was divisive rather than uniting.
The Australian of the Year is that for all Australians, not just some. You can and should speak out about issues of concern to you but, if you are to be effective, then you need to draw people together rather than divide them. From the first Goodes appeared to draw a line between "black" and "white" - and he drew it despite his own mixed heritage. I felt  uneasy as I heard indigenous friends questioning and then criticising his approach.
      "Goodsey is not helping," they told me at the time. 
I don't know what to think. There must be people in the background who advised him about that speech. What was their reasoning behind it? 
The son of my late friend R was in touch yesterday. He's a youth worker with indigenous youth. His mother was a highly respected indigenous elder. Were she alive today I am sure she would be deeply distressed by what is happening. Her son said as much to me. He is distressed too. He told me the issue is having a negative effect on some of the youth he works with. 
I assumed that they would be sympathetic towards Goodes and what has been happening but, while there is well founded resentment towards those who "boo" the player at matches, there is also anger towards Goodes.
"They looked up to him and now they don't. I have had to show them that there are other respected footballers out there." Of course he means respected indigenous footballers. 
And yes, there are. I couldn't care less about football but I know they do. They've told me about it with great enthusiasm. It's their passion. I don't want to see the Goodes issue spoil it for them any more than R's son does. 
R's son and I went through something he is planning and which I have had a very small part in. At the end of it he thanked me and he gave me his now customary bear hug. We parted at the door and I wished him luck. He smiled and said,
"Thanks. It's our responsibility too."
Perhaps it is.  

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