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AFL taps Burgoyne for Indigenous body as Jackson review spurs shake-up

Appointing Vandenbergh – highly regarded by players for his work as Aboriginal programs director at Port Adelaide – is seen as a critical step in ensuring player voices are heard when decisions are made that affect Indigenous players.

Apart from improving the pathways for Indigenous talent, Vandenbergh will focus on developing career and leadership pathways for Indigenous players post-career, a key recommendation from Jackson.

The changes are the result of the Jackson review that AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan commissioned early in 2020 as the council entered its sixth year, and come a fortnight after Collingwood accepted the recommendations contained in the Do Better report, which found the Magpies guilty of systemic racism.

McLachlan received Jackson’s findings late last year and frustration was building among some players at the time it was taking for the report to be acted upon.

Apart from the personnel changes, Jackson, a former Essendon and Melbourne chief executive, recommended a raft of practical adjustments, including quarterly reports to the AFL commission, annual meetings between them and the council and better systems of accountability.

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The council will also be provided with resources to assist its governance processes and there will be further appointments made to the council this year aimed at improving connections to the community.

Milroy, a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, became the first Indigenous person appointed to the AFL commission in late 2018, a key recommendation of the council under Briggs.

The long-awaited update of rule 35 – the AFL’s racial and religious vilification policy – and the league’s reconciliation action plan, which has not been updated since 2016, are expected to be finalised in coming weeks.

The revised racial and religious vilification rule is expected to be launched as part of this week’s first AFLW Indigenous round and in coming weeks the council will consider a review that Hosch and general counsel Andrew Dillon are preparing of the Do Better report.

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McLachlan said for action to occur Indigenous voices must be heard at senior level.

“We want more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and players at every level of our game and we want more Indigenous voices leading our game and guiding our game,” Mr McLachlan said.

“We can’t do that unless we are prepared to take the necessary steps to create an environment that provides not only greater opportunities, but greater protection against all forms of racism and discrimination on and off the field.

“We have to do more to understand the experiences and to take action, and we know that in order
to make change we need the AFL community, from the commission to regional clubs, all aligned
on the strategy to bring people to our game and to look after them.

“We know there is no finish line in the fight against racism and we know that we must continue to
take actions at all levels of the football community.”

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