Article from News.com 18 May 2023
Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images
The AFL has joined some of its biggest clubs in officially declaring support for an Indigenous Voice to Parliament after backing from the league’s commission.
Moving against those who have declared sporting organisations should refrain from taking positions on political matters, the AFL pointed to its “long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in our game” as key to its stance.
It’s a timely announcement, given this weekend in the AFL’s Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round.
Several of the biggest AFL clubs, including reigning premiers Geelong as well as Essendon, West Coast, Collingwood and Richmond, have all released statements supporting a yes vote in the referendum.
Having tabled the matter at a commission meeting on Wednesday, the AFL confirmed it was also supportive.
“The AFL is privileged to have a long history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership in our game – from the grassroots in every state and territory, through to the AFL and AFLW competitions,” the league said in a statement.
“Over the past year we have had many discussions on the proposal to recognise a Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in consultation with our clubs, our staff, our players, and the AFL’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Council.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players have long made a stellar contribution on the footy field. Their off-field contributions are equally valued for the impact they have made on our game and our community.”
“While we encourage everyone to seek the information they need to form their own views on the referendum, the AFL proudly supports the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution through the Voice to Parliament.”
The AFL position came on the back of a similar move from Rugby Australia on Thursday and after outgoing AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said earlier this week the league had to have a stance.
“Generally I think that we don’t seek to lecture, we don’t wade into every topic,” he said.
“But for those that are relevant … to our supporter base, and to our people who work for the AFL, the people who are members of clubs, people who come to our games, and our playing group, I think it’s important that leadership actually says this is what we stand for, this is what we think.
“I think it would be odd for a public organisation that is regarded as a community organisation, that actually has millions of members who come because they feel tribalism and connection, to not understand what the leadership stands for – I’m pretty unequivocal about that.”