Racist Attacks on Adam Goodes: The Tip of a Very Ugly Iceberg?

During the last week, what I hope is most Australians, have been rocked by ongoing racist remarks leveled at Adam Goodes, a much loved and honored Indigenous Aussie Rules (AFL) footballer and who was also named Australian of the Year 2014.

Many have come out strongly supporting Goodes, including setting up the hashtag #IStandWithAdam.

However, there are still some pretty vocal critics.

Adam Goodes (born 8 January 1980) is a professional Australian rules football player with the Sydney Swans in the Australian Football League (AFL). Goodes holds an elite place in VFL/AFL history as a dual Brownlow Medalist, dual premiership player, four-time All-Australian, member of the Indigenous Team of the Century and representing Australia in the International Rules Series. In addition, he currently holds the record for the most games played for an Indigenous player, surpassing Andrew McLeod’s record of 340 games during the 2014 AFL season.

I don’t know whether this story has made international headlines but it has reignited race debate here and personally, I think it’s about time racism made the front page and wasn’t hidden in the small print. Whether you believe that booing at Adam Goodes was racist or not, that doesn’t deny that our Indigenous Australians as a whole, cop what is often vile racist abuse. That what happens at a football match is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg. That there is endemic discrimination against Aboriginal people here and it has to stop!

Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014

Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014

Moreover, you don’t have to be an Indigenous Australian to see this. You just need two eyes, two ears and a heart…values. Even the smallest child has probably heard of the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated and that certainly doesn’t include calling anyone an “ape” or saying they “belong in the zoo.”!!

These racial taunts have been leveled at Adam Goodes from the crowd at games and it is nothing short of a disgrace!

I am not going to address the details here as you just need to do a quick Google search to get the run down.

However, here are a few links:



The story started out back in 2013 when a 13 year old girl at a Swans match called Goodes “an ape” from the stands. Goodes confronted the girl and she was removed from the stadium and interviewed by Police. Goodes didn’t want her charged and she later apologised to Goodes and made amends. However, there are still rumblings from the sidelines about this. That Goodes was unfair to expose and out her and whether a 13 year old knows what is racist. This has taken the issue way beyond Goodes and the girl concerned and has launched a wider debate. Not so much saying that the girl should be charged but that Goodes made the wrong call.

Since then, there have been other racial taunts directed at Goodes as well as a lot of booing from the crowd.

On the way to see Swans vs West Coast Eagles at ANZ Stadium in 2009. Mister played on the field with his team at half-time as part of the junior Auskick program.

On the way to see Swans vs West Coast Eagles at ANZ Stadium in 2009. Mister played on the field with his team at half-time as part of the junior Auskick program.

I’ve been to a number of AFL matches and am a Sydney Swans supporter myself. I’ve heard that kind of booing at matches and know how a crowd can get carried away, However, even then it struck me as poor sportsmanship and this booing at Goodes falls into another category altogether. Even if it wasn’t intended to be racist in the past, now that it is being perceived that way, that’s what it means. It needs to stop!!

Somewhat friendly banter between opposing supporters at the Swans vs Essenden match July 2007: my husband and I!

Somewhat friendly banter between opposing supporters at the Swans vs Essenden match July 2007: my husband and I!

What I also find quite intriguing is how people talk about this girl being an “innocent 13 year old”. That she didn’t understand what she was saying. What it meant to call anyone a “ape”, even if she didn’t understand what that reference means to Aboriginal people in particular.

As far as I’m concerned, she knew exactly what she was saying. You and I both know that if anyone called a kid in the playground a ape, at the very least, they’d be labeled a bully…not an innocent. So what’s the difference here? Just because Goodes is older than her, that doesn’t give her the right to be racist!

Just to emphasise this point, while I’ve been working on this post, my daughter approached me and said: “How could she not know that calling someone an ape is racist?” Miss is only 9 and she knows!

My kids are incredibly proud of our Indigenous people and actually thought they were Aboriginal. You see, my aunt’s partner is Aboriginal and they simply know him as “Uncle Darryl”. Darryl’s children are my step-cousins and while we don’t see them often as we live on opposite sides of the country, the kids really became attached to Uncle Darryl and believed they were Aboriginal. Even when I tried to explain to them that we were related to my aunt, it simply didn’t sink in. They couldn’t grasp genetics and all of these scientific explanations. Darryl was their uncle. He is Aboriginal. They were Aboriginal. There was such beauty and love in this. One day my daughter finally asked me: “So we don’t have any Aboriginal blood? Not even a drop?” Both kids are very disappointed!

I don’t just attribute this pride to our family situation. Rather, our school has built close ties with the local Mingaletta People and they learn Aboriginal painting and stories at school. Indeed, Aboriginality is truly celebrated at our school and not just given lip service either! It is interwoven in so much of what we do.

A few weeks ago, my son even attended a didgeridoo playing session at Mingaletta with his friend from school and I know that moved him deeply inside. It was a spiritual experience for him.

A few weeks ago while we were catching the train, he also told me that he would be proud to be Aboriginal.

These weren’t things my kids have said or done to be politically correct. Their love and respect for Aboriginal people just flows from the heart as a mark of respect, love and I some sort of connection which defies explanation but I do hope that this is something which will nurture and grow.

My kids, imperfect as they are, show what is possible not only through education but through knowing Aboriginal people in our family, at school and in the community and also being taught over and over again that we are all equal regardless of race,gender,disability or class.

My question and what I see as the ultimate challenge, is how do we reach adults who espouse racism and the like in our community?

Quite frankly, we all need to periodically scrub our brains out with soap and clean out the crap. Acknowledge our own bigoted biases and change the way we think. This doesn’t just relate to racism but also just to plain snobbery. Thinking that you’re better than someone else just because of where you live, what you drive and where your children go to school NOT who you are on the inside and your own actions. We don’t need to knock other people down to build ourselves up.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

So along with the rest of my family, we step out firmly supporting Adam Goodes. More than that. We cheer him on for taking a stand against racism and also for all he has done to encourage, develop and support Indigenous Australians while promoting greater acceptance, understanding and connection among all Australians…and all peoples!


It is a noble cause which echoes the words and deeds of many of the world’s greats but the words of Martin Luther King particularly come to mind:

“I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

xx Rowena

You can read here how fans have come out in force to support Adam Goodes: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-02/sporting-stars-and-fans-support-adam-goodes/6665834

26 thoughts on “Racist Attacks on Adam Goodes: The Tip of a Very Ugly Iceberg?

  1. colinandray

    It is a totally disgusting situation and there should certainly be a “zero tolerance” to such behavior. However, football crowds in general have always disappointed me with their all too common juvenile and irresponsible actions. Are we, as a species, that undeveloped that a “mob mentality” rules? There have been so many games since the 60’s (my time!) when the crowd expressed displeasure at the way a game was going by destroying the facility, or rushing the field en masse. I seem to recall seating structures collapsing because of an erratic movement of a large crowd. Then there is the “after game” fiasco where storefronts are smashed and cars rolled and set on fire, and for no other reason than “their team” lost the game, or a referee made a perceived “bad call”. I lost interest in the sport many years ago.

    Discrimination, abuse, bullying, wherever it surfaces should be immediately and decisively dealt with………. but what to do with a sport that seems to generate a “mob rule” mentality? That’s a tough question.

  2. Tails Around the Ranch

    Clueless cretins are sadly everywhere. Until such time as those of us who believe everyone is a valued human being speak up and speak out, the end result will remain the same. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and spreading the word.

  3. therabbitholez

    Excellent blog, it has reached the UK, and in sport over here (although it still happens) rascism has been almost stamped, however the need to do this beggars belief, were living in 2015, and the fact this ugliness still has a voice is beyond me.

    Having visited Australia several times, and I was in a long term with relationship with an Australian, we found that outside of large metropolitan areas it was a definit problem, in one place we were turned away at a motel when we were travelling around, which made my boyfriend mad, and me completely shocked that this could happen, in the UK it just doesn’t happen like that, or well not so openly, even now I can still feel the sting of their words.

    Sadly racism is endemic in many cultures, and it’s a behaviour that has to be unlearned, we all belong to this global community and there should never any room for racists and their ilk.

  4. TanGental

    This story was all over the news today, The BBC the Sunday Times. It is both disquieting and disgusting. I do want to take issue with you.
    You say “As far as I’m concerned, she knew exactly what she was saying. You and I both know that if anyone called a kid in the playground a ape, at the very least, they’d be labeled a bully…not an innocent. So what’s the difference here? Just because Goodes is older than her, that doesn’t give her the right to be racist!”
    No, Rowena that isn’t a fair analogy. I would be very cautious to call out a 13 year old on a racism charge. Let me give you an analogy in a different direction from the playground analogy. There was a famous case in Liverpool of two young pre teens both 11 who killed a four year old,. They were found old enough to stand trial, treated as understanding not just that what they did was wrong but the gravity of their crime. And that has been a very controversial decision of the court that isn’t likely to be followed. There is a distinction between knowing something is naughty and realising the depth, the implications of what you have done. Of course she would know name calling is wrong, she may even understand it is racist but it does not follow that she understands the distinction between name calling (socially unacceptable) and racism (both socially unacceptable and criminal) The 13 year is almost certainly mimicking behaviour seen and heard in adults; she may have appreciated that it was wrong but not how wrong. Those distinctions between the socially unacceptable and the criminal come with experience which is why we have ages of consent for criminality (generally 14 here but much higher for instance in Scandinavia) and voting ages. I know nothing of this 13 year old and how mature she was and certainly those adults influencing her should be subject to major approbation; however just because she did wrong doesn’t mean she understands how wrong and therefore should be the subject of general disgust. In law you need both the actus reus (doing the deed, here calling Goodes an ‘ape’) and the mens rea (understanding that it is wrong to do so) and the one does not follow from the other. And for the record I didn’t think at the time and I don’t think now in the British case Venables and Thompson should have stood trial for killing James Bulger.

  5. robertmgoldstein

    racism is a global problem. It is always wrong and it is always ugly–but that doesn’t stop wealthy political opportunists of all colors from using it to pander to small minds.

  6. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Norah. I really felt the need to step out and be counted. Not to be a bystander. This is a stance that children are being advised to take with bullying. That by standing back and doing nothing, you are tacitly supporting the bully. As a blogger, I obviously can choose what I write about but given my family connects and being a Sydney Swans supporter who has cheered Adam Goodes on at games, I felt the need to speak out and am certainly, thank goodness, far from alone! xx Rowena

  7. roweeee Post author

    My grandfather always used to say that the geese go barefoot everywhere and that is true for both good and evil. However, just because racism and other evils are so widespread and seemingly insurmountable, that doesn’t mean we should give up or not have a go. I saw a sign in my daughter’s classroom today which said not to give up when things get hard but to try harder and I took good note of that xx Rowena

  8. roweeee Post author

    It certainly has brought out a lot of supporters for Goodes and our Aboriginal people but there is still a fairly vocal minority and then there are always those people you meet at the bus stop who share their views which they’d never make public xx Rowena

  9. roweeee Post author

    Thank you for taking issue with me Geoff because in trying to keep these posts brief and actually hit the publish button, you can put a slant on things which is quite what you intended. Moreover, in this instance, you brought your legal experience to the discussion, which was an important contribution. I have since expanded things a bit to hopefully cover what you said.
    I think you mentioned before that you were here when Pauline Hansen was at her peak and this Adam Goodes thing has stirred up a similar sort of vitriol. However, in the intervening years, support of our Indigenous people and a greater appreciation of Aboriginal Australian history such as the Stolen Generation and I hope less racism in general has I think turned the tide the right direction. At least, I certainly hope so.
    By the way, on the subject of Venables and Thompson, there have been rumours that they were sent out to Australia to make a new start. Not sure how true that is but it certainly raised much controversy a few years ago xx Rowena

  10. Joanne Corey

    Thank you for sharing the story of Adam Goodes. I had not heard about it, probably because the US has had a string of domestic racially-motivated horrors filling our media.

    Bringing racist incidents out into public discussion does help raise awareness and, I hope, help us move toward a just world. Like your family, mine also has members from different racial backgrounds. More and more families are having this experience, which I hope will have a positive effect on society as a whole.

  11. roweeee Post author

    Thanks for mentioning that family melting pot, Joanne. My husband comes from a family of redheads and almost all of our nieces and nephews have married someone with black hair and dark olive complexion with parents from a real smorgasbord of countries and now call Australia home. Yes, these family mixes are very important for reducing racism as they enable us to appreciate cultural differences through the eyes of love and more often than not, we probably find we are more similar than different xx Rowena

  12. roweeee Post author

    Geoff is educating us all. That’s what I love about blogging. We can stretch and extend each other and become better informed and more rounded xx Rowena

  13. merrildsmith

    I didn’t know about this at all. I don’t think it’s big news here in the US, although I’ve been busy and I could have missed it.
    I’m sure you know the song from the musical “South Pacific,” “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught?” Your post emphasized that. I wondered about the girl’s family or friends. There must be some background there. Your kids’ feelings about being part of your extended family’s aboriginal side reminded me of my niece’s kids reactions to when they found out my older daughter was going to marry her girlfriend. It was pretty much “love is love.” They couldn’t understand why anyone would be upset. Love is love and people are people, black, white, gay, straight, and all sorts of other combinations!

  14. Norah

    It is important for people to stand up and be counted. Bullying of any kind is deplorable. Racism, and other isms formed of sterotypes, is perhaps the worst kind. Visible differences are easy targets and require no thought on the part of the perpetrator. It is a good thing that children are taught to speak out.

  15. TanGental

    I didn’t hear that about Venables and Thompson. They will have dreadful lives for sure wherever they go. Thank you for taking things in good part, Rowee. Yes we were over at the start of the chip Shop owners push for power. Up in Darwin we met some redneck supporters but in the cities there was simple disgust. Both the UK and Oz share the same mix of educated and narrow views on the world. We have a population of 60 mill and 4 mill voted for UKIP in May. By the grace of our far from democratic electoral system they only took one out of 650 seats in parliament. Not representative but who wants fairness, huh? I believe as I know you do that the good is outweighing the not so good, the open the narrow and the compassionate the hating. We will overcome, Row, we will.

  16. roweeee Post author

    Yes, I’ve been really excited to see the support for Goodes and actually changed my exclamation mark to a question mark and plan to do a follow up post talking about the good that has come out of this. Goodes returned to training today and has said that he feels very loved. That’s great. He is a really honourable Gentleman! We had a guest speaker yesterday at the school who happens to be an ambassador for the Swans. He spoke about it to the kids and gave a second Acknowledgement to Country which is exceptional. He, like so many of us, wanted to stand up and be counted. It was time to get out of your couch and say I’m with you!
    Anyway, I’ve had a busy week so far doing media for this visit yesterday and I’ll be posting about that tomorrow. I have also been ferrying madam to get voice therapy appointment and then there was coffee and cake and an I’m not feeling well and she was home. The therapist is encouraging but also puts a rocket up her…especially when it comes to shouting at her brother!! I know this must be upsetting but kids seems to react indirectly which can be rather challenging. I needed my chocolate and cup of tea tonight xxRowena

  17. Pingback: Embracing Indigeneous Australians. . | beyondtheflow

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