Almost all indicators of health and wellbeing in this country show the playing field is not level for Indigenous people. There are two paths we can take as a nation. We can continue with a system that has delivered inequity to certain racial groups, and at times this has been a deliberate strategy; or we can choose a path of ideas, policies and actions that lead to equality. The path that rejects racism.
Tackling racism, especially systemic racism, requires a shift in thinking from blaming Indigenous people to understanding the history and context of how we got to this point. The place to start is truth-telling about our shared history.
In your communities and workplaces, there are many ways for you to contribute to this team effort. We should all be asking: Do we even know how many Indigenous Australians are affected by the decisions we make? Too often policies and programs are designed with no or limited understanding of the people affected.
In areas where Indigenous Australians experience much higher levels of disadvantage – health, justice, housing, education – the systems are woefully under-prepared and ill-informed about the number and location of those people affected. In football terms, we keep giving hospital passes and expecting the rest of the system to work it out on the run.
We need to build a habit of including Indigenous perspectives. Think about your book or music collections. Listen to news delivered by Indigenous Australians. Watch films and documentaries by Indigenous people.
Make sure that when your child has an assignment on an Indigenous Australian you can name people, not only from our sports fields but across society and professions. They exist. There are many, but could you confidently name 10 to your children over dinner tonight?
Throughout COVID-19 the NRL has done a great job of getting the competition back in action. The one thing we are all missing is the crowds at games, which understandably are still very restricted. But this absence has shown us the power of the atmosphere of coming together, joining our voices to publicly show support for what matters to us.
We need to find our voice in this same way in tackling racism. We see far too often how Indigenous people have been targeted for daring to raise issues of racism. It can make people uncomfortable. But so it should. You shouldn’t be comfortable about the inequality endured by your fellow Australians. You shouldn’t be silent. We need to see and hear your support – to know which team you’re on.