On Sunday night, former Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley approached Derek Kickett to ask him what he thought of the ‘Do Better’ report.
Referring to the 2022 inquiry into reports of structural racism within the club, the report became somewhat infamous when, during a press conference the then club president Eddie McGuire described it as a “historic and proud day”, a comment that was widely criticised.
“I haven’t read the report,” Derek admitted to Nathan, “but the part where he said ‘we’re proud’ or something… that wasn’t a good look.”
Nathan explained, “It wasn’t communicated effectively, but what the club wanted to try and get across through the media was that… it felt like it was doing the right thing, that it was taking the right steps.
“But you don’t do badly for a long time and then go, oh give us some credit for wanting to do better now. So that’s probably where we got it wrong,” Nathan admitted.
“In the end, what our job is, as a white, privileged male, is actually not to talk about it. It’s just to listen.”
Nathan said his revelation that he needed to listen to Indigenous and BIPOC voices both within the AFL and outside, came after “Héritier Lumumba forced it”, referring to comments Lumumba had made alleging a toxic environment of racism and sexism.
The comments were reaffirmed in 2017 when Lumumba featured in the documentary Fair Game, which detailed more of the racism he experienced during his time at the club. His decision to speak out against the club had a huge influence on the decision to launch the inquiry and the subsequent report.
“I’ve been in that situation where the organisation… they're running Aboriginal programs but they’re doing it wrong,” Derek added. “When I’m going to tell them and talking to the CEO… you’ve got to listen to what I’m telling you.
“Because otherwise, you’re going to get a bad reputation out in community. If you don’t listen, then you’ve got no chance.”
Derek continued to ask why no Aboriginal past player had been on the board. “You need a footballer that knows the ins and outs on the footy field and off it,” he added.
While Collingwood had adopted all 18 recommendations that had been made in the report, both Derek and Nathan discussed how difficult it can be to address systemic issues of racism when progress is being impaired from the very top of the chain.
Nathan explained that having watched the award-winning documentary Australian Dream, which focused on AFL legend Adam Goodes and used his story to explore issues of race and identity, others who were with him admitted to not knowing about Australia’s history of slavery.
“Well even you’ve got the Prime Minister saying there was no slavery in Australia,” Derek said, referring to Scott Morrison’s comments where he told Sydney radio, “It was a pretty brutal settlement… but there was no slavery in Australia”.
“Well, he’s lying,” Derek said back in the camp.
“And that’s just more of the same, isn't it?” Nathan agreed.