Football Australia begins path to Reconciliation

Football Australia’s ambition to make a tangible impact on Reconciliation in Australia has taken positive steps throughout 2021, with the organisation having commenced a clear process of engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

In the XI Principles for the future of Australian football, the vision for Australian football to be recognised as a leader in Indigenous sporting programs and the Reconciliation process is outlined, and in the first half of this year several measures have been enacted to kick-off Football Australia’s pursuit of this important target.

With Australia currently recognising Reconciliation Week 2021 (27 May to 3 June), Football Australia can confirm that it has begun the process of establishing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), held cultural competency sessions for its Directors, Executive Leadership Team, and Staff, and dedicated itself to greater engagement with Australia’s Indigenous community, including current and former national team players.

As part of Football Australia’s journey towards Reconciliation, the organisation connected with Djirribul woman, Shelley Reys AO, to facilitate cultural competency training for Football Australia’s Directors and Executive. Reys, who is the Chief Executive Officer of Arrilla Consulting, said her organisation – which will continue to provide digitally-led learning to current and future Football Australia staff – were delighted to pass on knowledge and perspectives to Football Australia’s Directors and Executive.

“Arrilla were pleased to work with Football Australia’s leadership team as they commence their cultural competency and reconciliation journey,” Reys said. “I was so encouraged by their wholistic and collaborative approach and their genuine enthusiasm as they explored the possibilities and opportunities for impact and a shared pride in all that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures have to offer.”

Additionally, Football Australia has also engaged Two Point Co., a 100 per cent Indigenous owned and operated Indigenous engagement consultancy, to assist Football Australia with the development of its RAP.

Jason Timor, Director of Two Point Co, addressed Football Australia staff in person in Sydney and online last week.

“Two Point Co is privileged to be able to walk alongside Football Australia as they discover what Reconciliation means for them as an organisation and a sport,” Timor said.

“On this journey it is important to be mindful that Reconciliation shouldn't sit as a satellite of Football Australia’s core business and rather, it should be integrated into how they operate as a leading voice in the sport. As a large participation sport, football has a unique opportunity to bring along their community on this path of discovery and ultimately, promote unity.”

Football Australia Chief Executive Officer, James Johnson, said Australian football has been made richer for the contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at all levels of the game, and it is therefore vital that football plays its part in Australia’s Reconciliation process.

“As a Governing Body and as a sport, we can do more than we have done in the past to assist Australia’s Reconciliation process,” Johnson said.

The steps that we have taken so far in 2021 area positive, albeit overdue, start, and will help us to develop a clear plan for the sport as we aim to create opportunities through football for Indigenous talent, whilst also making a meaningful contribution to Reconciliation.”

“The contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples such as Charlie Perkins, Harry Williams, John Moriarty, Karen Menzies, Bridgette Starr, Kayleen Janseen, Jade North, Travis Dodd, Kyah Simon, and Lydia Williams – to name just a few – to football in Australia have been immense.

“Through these people and their stories, as well as our programs and soon-to-be-established RAP, we believe that there are many more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples that will be inspired to live and love football for life, with many going on to forge successes in the sport.”

Westfield Matilda Kyah Simon
Westfield Matilda Kyah Simon

Westfield Matildas forward Kyah Simon recognised the power of football to be an important partner in Australia working towards unity. 

“As a sport we have seen how unity can see us thrive and achieve great rewards," Simon said. "I am extremely pleased to see that Football Australia is on the path to ensuring that same unity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“I have joined that journey with Football Australia and believe as a code we can be an important influence that values and celebrates our Indigenous culture ensuring First Nations peoples have a voice in the game.”