Do better — Independent review into Collingwood Football Club’s responses to incidents of racism and cultural safety in the workplace

Australian rules football Racism Sporting clubs Workplace bullying Accountability Corporate social responsibility Sports participation Occupational health and safety Governance Victoria

There is a strong view external to the Collingwood Football Club that, whenever there is a racist incident in the AFL, Collingwood is somehow involved with it. This perception has led some to conclude that Collingwood has become synonymous with off-field and on-field racism in Australian sport and others to observe that there is something distinctive about racism at the club.

This review is focused on the responses of the Collingwood Football Club to incidents of racism and cultural safety in the workplace and the adequacy of the processes for addressing it.

Key Findings/Recommendations:

  • Concern was expressed about the lack of recruitment of Indigenous players and other players of diverse backgrounds into the Club and about the lack of Indigenous people on the coaching team or within senior administrative positions. There were also concerns that the presence of an Indigenous Board member and a staff member would be seen as enough to deal with the issues without the Club, its senior administration and the Board taking more responsibility for changes.
  • In taking steps to address racism and encourage inclusion, there needed to be a greater appreciation of the complexities around diversity. Almost all the steps taken to improve the Club focused on Indigenous people. While that was appropriate for a range of reasons, it meant that the different experiences, history and perspectives of other people of colour, particularly those of African players, were not appreciated. Establishing a space for people of colour in Collingwood, including people of African, Middle Eastern, Asian, Pacific and South American backgrounds and cultures will be crucial going forward if an inclusive culture is to be created.
  • It was observed by many that the Club was more likely to react to media coverage about a racist incident than complaints made within the Club and that such a reaction was defensive rather than proactive. This failure to respond adequately to complaints of racism internally has also meant that the Club’s response has been seen as aggravating, rather than mitigating, the impact of that racism on the people who have experienced it.
  • It is recommended that That the Collingwood Football Club review its processes for addressing complaints of racism to improve them and to include an avenue of external, independent review and protection for whistle-blowers. Club must also undertake a regular audit of its employment and anti-discrimination policies to ensure compliance with legal obligations in relation to a safe workplace.
  • As part of its internal education and orientation programs, the Collingwood Football Club needs to develop a process of ‘truth-telling’ as a constructive step to more deeply understand the experiences of First Nations people and People of Colour, their history and culture and the impacts of racism. The Club should also develop a strategy to address and reconcile past acts of racism in a way that is proactive and seeks to reward, not punish, people who speak out against racism.

The agenda for change proposed in this report had strong support within the Club when tested. However, there was also a sense that, to date, dealing with racism was something that could be done when other things had been taken care of. There is now an appetite to do better and a growing understanding that addressing racism and changing the culture of the Club will make Collingwood the best version of itself.

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