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Adam Goodes Documentary Opens National Dialogue on Racism Against Indigenous Australians


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Beyond dealing with “everyday” racism and bigotry, Indigenous Australians face heightened inequality across life expectancy, health, schooling, and incarceration. Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, including action on reducing inequalities. You can join us and take action on these issues and more here.

This week, Australia reignited an extensive dialogue about racism. 

Spurring that discussion was the primetime broadcast of a new documentary, entitled The Final Quarter. The documentary explores the last three years in the Australian Football League (AFL) career of Sydney Swans player Adam Goodes. 

During this period, Goodes, an Indigenous Australian, was routinely booed by swarms of attendees whenever he made contact with the ball.

The documentary explores the role racism played in the booing — which became so intense it forced Goodes to leave the game — and the relationship between the star player and the chiefly white, male Australian media.

The documentary quickly began trending on social media across Australia.

Ignited in the conversation is television presenter Waleed Aly. Following the screening, Aly wrote an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, where he explained how Goodes’ torment rapidly became a country-wide storm. 

"Critics of Goodes loved to point out that there were more than 70 other Indigenous players in the AFL who weren’t getting booed at the time. That sort of thing is falsely offered as a defense against the charge of racism because it pretends racism can exist only if the prejudice in question applies to every single member of a race; that if something is not exclusively about skin color, then race is not a factor at all. But that’s almost never how it works,” he wrote.

"More often, racism lives in the double standards that mean someone gets attacked in a way a white person never would, even if they were to behave in the same way. Racism doesn’t require a belief that there are no ‘good’ blacks. In fact, it frequently relies on the ‘good’, precisely because it wants to identify the ‘bad’ ones,” Aly added.


Individuals involved in the initial booing episodes also responded to the documentary. 

Eddie Mcguire, a radio host and president of the Collingwood Football Team, became involved in the initial scandal when he suggested on his Triple M radio program that Goodes should be involved in the marketing of the musical King Kong. The comment occurred days after Goodes was called an ‘ape’ by a Collingwood fan during a Sydney Swans and Collingwood match.

In the days after the documentary aired, Mcguire revealed being involved negatively was “very confronting.” 

"I encourage people to watch this documentary. What you have to do in these situations is you have to front up to things. It’s an eye-opener. And if that’s the bottom line, it’s been a worthwhile exercise,” he stated.

Like Mcguire, Shannan Dodson, the Indigenous affairs advisor for Media Diversity Australia, hopes the documentary will “help people to have a bit of introspection.”

"Australian society wasn't mature enough at the time to have a really open robust conversation about racism,” Dodson, a Yawuru woman, told SBS. “I hope that this film helps people ... to think that what happened was hurtful. Goodes was bullied out of his workplace, which is unacceptable by any means. The fact that it had racist connotations attached to it is a whole other level of hurt and trauma that we really need to come to terms with as a country if we want to move forward.” 

A 2017 survey by non-profit organization Diversity Council Australia found 37.8% of Indigenous Australians said they had experienced discrimination or harassment in the workplace. This compares to 21.9% of non-Indigenous Australians. 

Likewise, the employment to population ratio for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders between 15 and 64 years of age reached 48% in 2015 — compared to 75% for non-Indigenous Australians. In the same year, the median weekly income for Indigenous Australians was just under $550 — against $850 non-Indigenous Australians.

The child detention rate for Indigneous children is also 26 times the rate of their non-Indigenous counterparts. 

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The documentary has ignited such discourse that the production company behind the show will now make The Final Quarter freely available as an education source for all schools and registered sporting clubs across the country.

"Sport is such a great way to have those difficult conversations," Ian Darling, the show’s director and producer, told the ABC, before adding that trial previews showed positive reactions from school kids. "The kids were just so engaged, that was one thing. If you take a documentary and say this is a film about racism, it may not have had that engagement.”

For Aly, the fact that Australians are talking about race — and the fact that the documentary will be shown at all schools — is of critical importance. The question now remains, he states, as to whether this discourse can “become a productive national conversation.”

“And the answer to that question rests with each of us.” he wrote.