How Australia failed Adam Goodes

Adam Goodes. Picture: AAP
Adam Goodes. Picture: AAP

AS an AFL supporter. As an Australian. As a human. I am sorry. We failed Adam Goodes, writes Laura Pond.

Sadly, we needed a film to show us that and that’s exactly what The Final Quarter did.

Archive footage captured during the final three seasons of his career showed that Goodes should be revered — not booed and taunted by fans at stadiums across the nation.

A phenomenal footballer (dual Brownlow medallist and premiership player, four-time All Australian and Sydney Swans games record holder), Goodes is articulate, thoughtful, compassionate and intelligent.

He should have been catapulted into Australia’s hearts when he was named Australian of the Year in 2014.

But by this stage footy fans had turned against him.

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Adam Goodes kisses his second Brownlow medal on stage after winning the AFL Brownlow Medal Awards in 2006. Picture: AAP Image/Sergio Dionisio

His humble and hopeful acceptance speech was bizarrely misrepresented as “divisive” in some corners.

“I hope we can be proud of our heritage regardless of the colour of our skin and be proud to be Australian,” he said on January 26, 2014.

“I’m so grateful for this award and this honour, however the real reward is when everyone is talking to their mates, to their families and their children, having those conversations and educating others about racism.

“What it looks like, how hurtful and how pointless it is and how we can eliminate it.

“The ultimate reward is when all Australians see each other as equals and treat each other as equals.”

Adam Goodes was named Australian of the Year. Picture: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

He was a proud indigenous man speaking about his culture and promoting reconciliation. And that bothered people.

Waleed Aly said it perfectly in the documentary, which aired on Channel 10 this week.

“There’s no mystery about this at all. And it’s not as simple as it being about race. It’s about something else,” Aly explained.

It’s about the fact that Australia is generally a very tolerant society, until its minorities demonstrate that they don’t know their place. And at that moment, the minute a minority – someone in a minority position acts as though they’re not a mere supplicant, then we lose our minds. And we say, ‘No, no you’ve got to get back in your box here’.

The backlash is huge and it is them who are creating division and destroying our culture and that is ultimately what we boo. We boo our discomfort.”

Indeed, people decided Goodes was becoming too big for his boots and had no right bringing an indigenous perspective to the forefront.

Adam Goodes is a phenomenal footballer. Picture: AAP

Instead of being horrified that a 13-year-old girl would so readily hurl a racial slur – people targeted Goodes for pointing her out, despite him the next morning saying he did not blame her, calling for support for her and seeing it as an opportunity for education.

Then there’s the “war cry”.

I’ve seen far more over the top and aggressive goal celebrations — many, many times.

Next.

The fact is, Australia had a real opportunity to embrace and support a person who could unite us and educate us towards reconciliation but we turned against him.

At a basic human level, when it became apparent Goodes was hurting, that should have been enough to quieten people.

Instead the criticism grew louder.

Goodes endured so much as Australia hounded him into submission.

It’s not just the missed opportunities then we should rue but now – when Goodes remains, understandably, silent.

We are missing his insight, the inclusive nature of his sentiments and his hope for a better Australia.

As Goodes said during his Australian of the Year acceptance speech:

“All I’m here to do is tell you about my experiences and hope you choose to be aware of your actions and interactions so that together we can eliminate racism.”

laura.pond@communitynews.com.au