The controversy surrounding Adam Goodes has now developed a life of its own.
Many words, phrases are being said which are emotive and could be seen as offensive or hurtful.
Adam finds so much of the commentary to be hurtful and offensive. As such, it is time to draw a line in the sand. That he has withdrawn from football this weekend is a transparent illustration of the stress and hurt he is feeling.
What has occurred over the last few months or weeks can’t be altered. But tomorrow brings a new day. Regardless of what we think or how we act, the impact of what we do or say should never cause hurt to others. Race, sexuality, religion or appearance should never be the grounds for discrimination, of any kind.
Last year, beyondblue launched a well-researched campaign Stop, Think, Respect. It used as its main character “The Invisible Discriminator”. It was aimed at people who may not have realised that what they say or do can discriminate against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It pointed out that constant negative comments and actions can lead to stress, anxiety and depression, even in some cases, suicide. The campaign was well received by Indigenous Australians, who worked with us to make sure we got the campaign right. Sadly, discrimination is the experience not only of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but also of many others of different appearances and beliefs. beyondblue is also currently trialling a research program in the Northern Territory to work with people who have attempted to take their lives, to support them and help them to find their way back to a mentally healthier life. Since the trial started, the results are most encouraging, with no one on the trial dying by suicide. In short, there is a great deal of good work happening around Australia with and for our First Peoples. In sport there are many examples where proud, talented and successful Indigenous men and women have brought honour to their culture, community, their sport and their country. Within Australian Rules Football, Adam Goodes is one of our most accomplished sportsmen. Clearly, he is also very proud of his Aboriginal culture and heritage, and of his broader community, as he and we all should be.
The current debate is neither fair nor dignified. As I said earlier, it is developing a life of its own, which detracts from the game of football and is clearly hurting an individual, Adam Goodes. We must all learn from the last few weeks. We all must give some ground. We should try to understand that what we do and say can cause harm, from whatever side of the fence we may sit. We should use this experience to recommit to a harmonious, multicultural society.
It is not for me, heaven forbid, to tell anyone what to say, think, or do, but we can Stop, Think, and Respect the rights of each other. Have a good day, remembering that tomorrow is the start of the rest of our lives, and we should treat each other as we ourselves would want to be treated.
Jeff Kennett beyondblue Chairman