WARNING: This story contains intergenerational trauma for indigenous people and pregnancy loss
Eddie Betts has called on each AFL club to implement external reviews into their respective cultures to figure out whether there are more indigenous players who have been mistreated across the league.
Betts said he’d been left saddened but unsurprised by an explosive report which detailed the horrific allegations of multiple indigenous players at the Hawthorn Football Club during former coach Alastair Clarkson’s tenure.
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The 35-year-old has been outspoken on racial issues throughout both his playing and post-playing days, and said the implementation of an indigenous liaison officer at each club from last year was a significant first step for the league.
Betts added that he would “always” believe the players involved and “the brothers”.
“It was a tough read, but I wasn’t surprised to be honest,” Betts told Fox Footy’s AFL360.
“As aboriginal people, we face these issues in many systems. In the education system, the justice system, the housing system, and it always comes back to what I’ve been preaching a lot, and that’s education.
“This could happen at any club. If Shaun Burgoyne was at that football club and it slid under the table then (with him) as a leader… this could happen at any football club.
“Every football club should come out and do an external review, contact the past indigenous players and see how it was.”
Betts said he knew one of the players whose alleged experience was detailed in the ABC report, and said he planned to reach out to the player to thank him.
“I’m just going to tell him how brave he was and thank you for speaking up and bringing this awareness to everybody because if he hadn’t brought it up we wouldn’t be going through this,” he said.
Betts said specific allegations mentioned in the ABC report had reminded him of the stolen generation, something his maternal grandfather had been subject to.
“It was kind of like that (the stolen generation),” he said.
“My mum’s father was a part of the stolen generation, he was taken away from his kids and he’s told us stories about how that felt and how he was, and it’s kind of close to that in a sense.
“It was really, really sad to read.”
Even after an unbelievable AFL career, Betts explained how he still faces racism in his day-to-day life, and touched on the impact of each incident.
Betts claimed he’d been asked to leave a public swimming pool recently while carrying his child after an elderly white couple in the vicinity had made a complaint to lifeguards.
“I honestly don’t feel like I belong here, but my wife keeps driving into me and telling me, ‘Out of anyone, you should feel like you belong here the most because this is your country’,” he said.
“But because I keep facing these issues, I don’t feel like I belong.”
Former Hawk, Jordan Lewis, who spent the entirety of his time at the club under Clarkson, said he and other players felt like they’d let down the players involved.
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“It’s upsetting sitting here today and talking to ex-teammates, indigenous and non-indigenous, and we all feel the same: we all feel like in some little way we may have let them down,” he told AFL360.
“To a man, no one had ever heard anything like this happening in our time there. The alleged conversations that have happened to those individuals, we as a playing group were never privy to those.
“It’s clearly disturbing if these allegations are true… when it should’ve been a safe environment.
“They were kids at the time, and to be going through something so traumatic and to be offered advice from people who may not have been medical professionals I think is disturbing.”
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