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Racism in Australian Football League Sporting Clubs Report (Assessment)


Despite numerous attempts at addressing problems in interracial relationships, racism remains a despicable yet integral part of the modern world. The issue can be tracked down in the Australian environment as well, with the recent instances of racism being sparked in AFL sports clubs. However, a closer look at the subject matter will reveal that the problem is imprinted deep in the mind frame of the Australian indigenous community.

Debate Description

A recent incident points to the necessity to introduce control tools for managing confrontations between indigenous Australians and the representatives of racial and ethnic minorities. Particularly, the accident with Goodes needs to be mentioned (Matthey, 2017). The specified situation shows that there is a strong need to introduce the principles of cultural sensitivity into the realm of Australian society (Rigby, 2017). Adam Goodes is an Australian football player belonging to the indigenous Australian culture. He has been known for his stellar achievements in football, as well as his social activities aimed to address the instances of racism against indigenous Australians (Smith, 2017). However, Goodes’s public persona has become quite controversial over the past few years due to his outrageous actions (Matthey, 2017). On the one hand, the fact that Goodes became a victim of racism in 2012 when a racial slur was used against him shows that racism persists in Australia (“Infamous AFL racism incidents,” 2017). On the other hand, him performing an indigenous dance in 2015 indicates that the indigenous population needs further education about cultural sensitivity (“Sydney Swans’ Adam Goodes,” 2015). Therefore, there is a need to focus on the management of relationships between indigenous communities and the rest of the Australian population.

The situation with the racial slur being used against the football player shows that racism remains a significant problem for the residents of Australia (Smith, 2017). Particularly, racism affects the members of indigenous cultures (Matthey, 2017). The case under analysis points quite clearly to the fact that the instances of racism against football players in the AFL club may be caused by misinformation or ignorance among the rest of the Australian population (Little, 2017).

However, there is another side to the specified argument. One might argue that the very idea of using dance as the means of rendering one’s emotional state and express joy cannot be considered offensive (Rigby, 2017). While the specified assumption is partially true, it is also necessary to consider the goals that the football player pursued with his dance, as Day, Nakata, Nakata, and Martin (2015) explain in their analysis. Therefore, there are solid reasons to assume that the problem of racism is currently spinning out of control in Australian society. Other studies warn that the increase in the levels of social confusion that the specified problem causes is likely to lead to even more drastic outcomes (Day et al., 2015).

Viewing the problem from the perspective of the Cultural Responsiveness Theory (CRT), which states that successful leadership and change management is only possible once the culture-specific needs of the target population are taken into account (Sasakamoose, Bellegarde, Sutherland, Pete, & McKay-McNabb, 2017), one must acknowledge the presence of the conflict (i.e., the lack of cultural awareness leading to racism) and determine the strengths of the community (Sasakamoose et al., 2017). In the context of the Australian environment, the readiness to accept the ideas of racial tolerance and cultural diversity can be considered the key assets (Mitha & Adaita, 2016). At present, it is the lack of engagement that defines the increasingly high levels of racism in the community (Sasakamoose et al., 2017). Therefore, to produce a spiritually grounded rise in the social and cultural well-being of the population by the CRT, one will have to consider encouraging the active and consistent knowledge acquisition among the members of the Australian social environment (Mitha & Adaita, 2016). Thus, rapid progress can be expected.

Northern Territory Intervention

Scott Morrison is a member of the Australian government (particularly, he voices the opinions of the Liberal Party in the Australian House of Representatives) and the proponent of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response, also known as the Northern Territory Intervention (NTI). Accepted in 2007, the NTI implied that a set of rigid rules allowing for law enforcement in the areas where indigenous communities lived should take place (Roffee, 2016). Morrison continued the policy of his predecessor and supported the concept of the NTI, especially as far as the promotion of the welfare credit card is concerned. Spawning the so-called “welfare debate” (Hutchens, 2017, para. 1), the NTI package contributed to multiplying the issues faced by the residents of the Australian aboriginal communities by introducing the “cashless welfare card trial” (Zhou, 2017, para. 1).

On the one hand, the idea of increasing welfare levels by introducing a more rational approach toward purchasing goods and allocating the available resources could be deemed as rather reasonable for assisting indigenous people populating the Northern territory (Kennedy, 2012). As Kennedy (2012) explained, by attaching specific conditions to welfare payments, one could create the premises for a rise in the levels of well-being in the target community. On the other hand, patronizing tone toward indigenous Australians has contributed to a massively negative impact of NTI on the specified communities (Zhou, 2017). To be more exact, the adoption of the welfare credit card regulation is viewed as a condescending and therefore, humiliating step in developing the relationships with the indigenous peoples of Australia (Zhou, 2017).

One might argue that the regulation was designed to meet the needs of a wide range of Australian aboriginal people, hence the patronizing tone of NTI and the nature of the welfare credit card (Kennedy, 2012). Particularly, the restrictions imposed on purchasing tobacco and alcohol were viewed as the means of addressing the potential social threats faced by disengaged youth (Proudfoot & Habibis, 2015). That being said, the condescending manner in which the cashless welfare card trial was carried out was a mistake since it aggravated the conflict between the government and the members of indigenous Australian populations (“Review of the cashless debit card trial,” 2017). For obvious reasons, the regulation was quickly termed as the “paperless arrest” (Yang, 2015, p. 21) among the members of the indigenous Australian community (Lobo, 2014).

The theory of ethnocentrism can be used to analyze the problem in question. Viewing the problem from the Racism, Acceptance, and Cultural-Ethnocentrism Scale (RACES) theory perspective, one will have to recognize the failure of the government, in general, and Morrison, in particular, to recognize the independence of indigenous populations of Australia as the conflict that needs to be addressed (Mitha & Adaita, 2016). Particularly, there are problems with the unidimensional (racial) and multidimensional (socioeconomic, political, etc.) levels (Grigg & Manderson, 2016). Finally, the problem of the welfare card concept may be viewed from the cultural humility theory, which suggests that the priorities should be defined ((the needs of Australian indigenous peoples), the process should be analyzed (i.e., key cultural conflicts), a focus on values must be maintained consistent (i.e., the need for equality), a specific perspective should be set (i.e., the principles of racial tolerance), and a servant’s heart must be cultivated (i.e., a respectful attitude toward the needs of indigenous populations) (Hockett, Samek, & Headley, 2017).

Cultural Diversity: Impact

The incident with Goodes goes against the foundational principles of ethical practice. According to the AASW Practice Standards (2013), it is imperative to create an environment in which culturally responsive practice can be carried out. The identified scenario, in turn, does not allow building culturally responsive communication. Thus, one should consider developing a program that will provide the members of the White Australian community with the necessary knowledge about the importance of diversity, the significance of multicultural communication, etc. (Berman, Daniel, Butler, MacNevin, & Royer, 2017).

Thus, the setting in which the relationships between the stakeholders in question may progress will be built. Furthermore, according to AASW, a social worker “Creatively adapts and modifies practice to work effectively and inclusively with people who have different and diverse cultural identities, values, affiliations, beliefs and customs” (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2013, p. 11) when managing the scenarios implying racial dilemmas (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2010). Therefore, the goal of a social worker in the specified case will imply introducing basic principles of tolerance, the threats of prejudices, and the tools for proper cross-cultural communication into the environment of the Australian sport (especially as far as the setting of the AFL Club is concerned).

Considering the problem from several levels, one must mention that the macro-level management will require building a set of rigid ethical standards that will, later on, be introduced into the AFL Club environment. Afterward, the meso-level will be managed by creating group sessions for the AFL Club members to attend so that they could learn the basics of cultural diversity and multicultural relationships. The micro-level framework, in turn, will have to be focused on designing a tool for approaching specific AFL members so that they could build cultural awareness. Thus, the premises for preventing further instances of racism in the AFL environment will be created (Carr, 2016).

As a social worker, one will have to consider appealing to the target audience’s concept of social justice by pointing out the absurdity of discriminating against people based on their cultural, ethnic, or racial identity (Bodkin-Andrews & Carlson, 2016). Thus, a better understanding of the principles of cross-cultural communication can be fostered among the target population. Furthermore, a social worker must address social prejudices specifically by subverting the ideas that have been preventing the representatives of White Australian communities for developing proper relationships with the members of indigenous communities in Australia (Carr, 2016).

At this point, though, one must mention the fact that the current levels of cultural diversity in Australia are quite high. Indeed, a closer look at a modern Australian indigenous family will show that it is usually very diverse, yet racist attitudes persist in the society despite the efforts made to address them (Waton et al., 2014). A recent study shows that the focus on color blindness has been working to the detriment of the relationships between ethnic minorities and indigenous populations of Australia (Bodkin-Andrews & Carlson, 2016). According to the description provided by Waton et al. (2014), color blindness in the context of racial relationships can be interpreted as the assumption of equality coupled with an “added normative dimension that we should therefore be ‘blind’ to ethnic or racial (i.e., ‘color’) differences” (Walton et al., 2014, p. 113). Therefore, the phenomenon of color blindness cannot be viewed separately from the idea of equality and integrity.

The AASW Guide

Rooted in the principles of equality, the AASW guide demands that a social worker should act “to bring about social or systemic change to reduce social barriers, inequality and injustice” (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2010, p. 8). In other words, a social worker must reinforce the significance of recognizing the needs of aboriginal Australians and help the rest of the community understand the needs of indigenous Australian populations (Bray, Gray, Hand, & Katz, 2014).

Viewing the concept of the NTI and the social welfare card from the social justice perspective, one must admit that the strategy provided by Morrison misaligns with the essential principles of social equality (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2013). Indeed, the patriarchal tone of the welfare card is a misrepresentation of the foundational social justice principles, which imply that all members of the society must be provided with equal rights and viewed as equal participants in political, economic, and cultural processes occurring in the state (Australian Association of Social Workers, 2010). In other words, by depriving Australian aboriginal communities of the opportunity to make choices for themselves, the government violates the idea of equality as the foundational principle of the social justice system (Baldry, Carlton, & Cunneen, 2015).

Considering the practice of a social worker in the target environment from three key levels, one must mention the macro level first. The specified perspective implies changes on the state-wide level. In other words, changes must be introduced into the Australian government. The specified modification will require canceling the welfare card concept as the first step to take. Afterward, the active promotion of the framework allowing meeting the needs of indigenous Australian people must be promoted on the government level. Later, the meso-stage will have to be considered. For this purpose, creating organizations that will provide social assistance to Australian indigenous families in need must be deemed as a necessity. Finally, to appeal to people on a micro-level, a social worker must offer counseling services for individuals (Royer, 2014).

When handling the issue as a social worker, one must also keep in mind that the application of anti-racist practice concepts and strategies will allow the introduction change to Australian society efficiently. As stressed above, the idea of color blindness has been promoted actively in the Australian environment (Baldry et al., 2015). However, apart from the specified tool, other techniques such as the active use of information and apology (DiStaso, Vafeiadis, & Amaral, 2015) should be deployed. Thus, the values linked to equality, diversity, and multiculturalism can be introduced into the realm of Australian society. Furthermore, the identified alteration will help trigger a political change since it will compel the state authorities to consider the regulation that will take the needs of indigenous people of Australia into account (Bray, Gray, Hand, & Katz, 2014). As a social worker, one will have to use all available tools to promote the principles of social justice based on equality, tolerance, and acceptance to the Australian population. For this purpose, the communication strategies based on sympathy empathy, an apology must be incorporated into the communication process (DiStaso et al., 2015). Furthermore, one must consider using modern media (specifically social networks) as the means of reaching out to both sides of the conflict. Thus, the needs of the vulnerable population will be met successfully (Baldry et al., 2015).


Othering can be defined as subjecting the members of a particular minority group to social isolation by the rest of the community members (Heinz, Müller, Krach, Cabanis, & Kluge, 2014). Furthermore, othering can be termed as giving specific members of a community power over the rest of the citizens based on specific ethnic, cultural, or any other characteristics (Jakobsen, 2014). The phenomenon of othering has a distinctly negative effect on the representatives of racial minorities in Australia since it contributes to their further isolation. Applying the concept of othering to the scenario described above, one will reveal that the socio-cultural divide between indigenous Australians and the rest of the Australian population has been in existence for centuries (Sarra, 2014). Furthermore, being unaddressed for the most part, the problem in question has only aggravated over the years of its development. Therefore, nowadays, the process of ostracism in the context of Australian society occurs without any hindrances in its way.

The problem faced by Goodes points to the fact that whiteness is currently the dominant concept in the Australian culture, as well as that it has been the foundation for building intercultural relationships for centuries (Sarra, 2014). The specified phenomenon does not align with the foundational principles of the cultural humility theory (Hockett et al., 2017). Indeed, the problem of racism that manifested itself in the incident with Goodes shows that there is a strong need to introduce the ideas of cultural humility, as well as anti-oppressive practices, into the context of the Australian sports environment, particularly, the Australian Football Club.

The case under analysis shows that othering was used against Goodes by the football fan when she called him an ape. Thus, the fan specified that, from her perspective, Goodes’s culture was entirely alien to hers; furthermore, it could be argued that the fan referred to Goodes’s appearance. Therefore, the othering technique deployed by the fan concerned polarizing the behaviors to which she was used and the one that Goodes adopted during the game. Furthermore, the technique known as dehumanization was used by the fan. Indeed, by comparing the football player to an ape, she attempted at dehumanizing Goodes and, therefore, drawing a line between her culture and his one (Jakobsen, 2014). The specified incident has a drastic effect on the relationships between White Australian and the representatives of other races and ethnicities in the AFL Club context. Therefore, the problem needs to be addressed respectively (Hockett et al., 2017). The othering technique that is currently accepted in the AFL Club implies the use of us/them concept as the means of isolating specific cultures and races (“Infamous AFL racism incidents,” 2017). Particularly, the members of the White culture are viewed as “us,” whereas the rest of the ethnicities are referred to as “them” in the context of the Australian environment (Little, 2017).

Among the interventions that could potentially be used to manage the instances of othering in the realm of the Australian society, one must mention the approaches aimed at preventing the further perpetuation of the White culture dominance in the target environment (Sarra, 2014). For this purpose, programs aimed at raising awareness should be deemed as possible tools for handling the issue. Particularly, the promotion of the idea of diversity and multiculturalism must become the focus of the attention of modern media. Thus, the foundation for introducing the relevant values to the context of the Australian indigenous community will be built. Furthermore, it will be necessary to make sure that the members of the target community should be ready to accept the suggested changes. Thus, the incorporation of a coherent leadership strategy aimed at transforming the current perspective of indigenous populations will need to be utilized (Hockett et al., 2017).

The phenomenon of othering can also be tracked down in the debate caused by the introduction of the welfare card into the context of Australian society. By promoting the specified element of the NTI as the means of addressing the needs of indigenous populations of Australia, Morrison indicates that the Australian government has a very poor understanding of its indigenous cultures, in general, and deploys racist tools to address social issues associated with the specified members of the Australian population. Thus, there is a strong need in introducing new and innovative approaches to handle the specified concern (Hockett et al., 2017). The us/them concept is promoted with the help of the welfare card, thus, pointing to the residents of the Northern Territory as “them,” whereas the rest of the community is viewed as “us” based on the NTI provisions (Berg, 2014).

The process of othering spurred by the introduction of the welfare card is admittedly difficult to manage. The strategy used by Morrison has undermined the very concept of equality in the realm of Australian society. By validating the policy, Morrison defined the members of indigenous Australian communities as lacking independence and being unable to make choices for themselves. As a result, Morrison drew a very clear line between the two groups in Australia. The specified problem is a graphic example of othering; while Morrison did not make any explicit statements concerning the characteristics of the target population or their ability to make important decisions, he questioned their independence in a very harmful and offensive way. Therefore, the further cancellation of the welfare card concept and its replacement with a more appropriate tool for managing the issues faced by indigenous Australians is due (Hockett et al., 2017).

The process of othering launched by Morrison is bound to have drastic ethical consequences unless addressed appropriately. Since the policy that he has supported implies that the indigenous population of Australia should be provided with fewer rights than the rest of the citizens, it is bound to launch a series of social changes in the Australian environment. Particularly, the gap between its aboriginal citizens and the rest of the community will take a drastic shape. Since the regulation perpetuates the idea of indigenous peoples of Australia as lacking independence and being unable to make financial decisions, it is likely to harm the specified citizens’ ability to advance in society. Furthermore, the relationships between the Northern Territory residents and other Australian communities will be hampered significantly, with racial discrimination becoming increasingly more common. The identified process of othering will finally lead to discrimination and racism becoming a norm of social interactions in Australia (Jakobsen, 2014).

Therefore, the further promotion of equality and the relevant principles is crucial to the efficient management of the situation (Heinz et al., 2014). Morrison must recognize the problems of the policy that he supported; moreover, the rest of the government members will need to accept the idea that indigenous Australian populations have the right to engage in the same economic, political, financial, and cultural interactions as the rest of the Australian community (Hockett et al., 2017). As soon as the focus of the relevant values is introduced into the political and social environment of Australia, its government, particularly, Morrison, is likely to reconsider the introduction of the welfare card as the means of regulating the issues faced in the Northern Territory. Furthermore, a significant change in the intercultural and interracial relationships between the representatives of different cultures in the context of the Australian society is bound to occur with the reinforcement of equality and the associated values (Hockett et al., 2017).


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IvyPanda. 2021. "Racism in Australian Football League Sporting Clubs." February 9, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/racism-in-australian-football-league-sporting-clubs/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Racism in Australian Football League Sporting Clubs'. 9 February.

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