NACCHO Aboriginal health news alert: Why Adam Goodes is an inspired and inspiring choice as Australian of the Year

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“Growing up as an Indigenous Australian I have seen and experienced my fair share of racism. It’s shaped my values and what I believe in today. Racism is a community issue that we all need to address.” 

“It is not just about taking responsibility for your own actions but speaking to your mates when they take out their anger on loved ones or minority groups or make racist remarks

From Adam Goodes Australian of the Year acceptance speech

Buddy and Adam

The chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed on behalf of the board and 150 Aboriginal community controlled health organisation members throughout Australia congratulated Adam Goodes on his award for Australian of the Year and the support he has given NACCHO over the years.

Pictured above launching the NACCHO AFL indigenous all stars jumpers last year in Sydney with new team mate Buddy Franklin

The Australian Human Rights Commission today said it is “absolutely delighted” that its anti-racism ambassador, Adam Goodes, is Australian of the Year 2014.

“This honour acknowledges and celebrates the very significant contribution Adam Goodes has made to our understanding of human rights in Australia,” said Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs.

“The award highlights Mr Goodes’ support for anti-racism initiatives such as Racism. It Stops With Me.

AG

“It also draws attention to Mr Goodes’ support for constitutional reform,” Professor Triggs said.

Mr Goodes is an ambassador for the Human Rights Commission’s Racism.It Stops With Me campaign. He also features in an anti-racism Community Service Announcement (CSA) the Commission produced in partnership with Play by the Rules.

The CSA quickly went viral after Mr Goodes took a stand against a racist incident during an AFL game in Melbourne last year. Almost 250,000 people have viewed it on the Commission’s YouTube channel and the clip remains available for media use.

Racism. It Stops With Me encourages people to think about what they say and to understand why racist comments are wrong,” Professor Triggs said.

“We are lucky to have the perfect ambassador in Adam Goodes. We congratulate him on his achievement and we thank him for his leadership.”

The Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, also congratulated Mr Goodes as the newly appointed Australian of the Year.

Dr Soutphommasane said Mr Goodes has delivered a simple but important message: that there is no place for racism in Australia.

“Adam Goodes’ stand against racism has inspired and empowered many Australians,” Dr Soutphommasane said.

Watch the Racism. It Stops With Me video clip.

FROM THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

The most ill-advised argument anyone could make right now is that Adam Goodes  was named Australian of the Year for calling out a 13-year-old girl at the MCG  in between chasing a piece of inflated red leather around a footy oval.

From: Andrew Webster Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald

The most ill-advised question anyone could ask is what has the Swans  footballer done compared with those who have served and lost lives in  Afghanistan, or produced miracles in operating theatres?

It’s what Goodes can do over the next year that makes his appointment one of  the most inspired choices in years.

When it was revealed on Saturday night that the 34-year-old had received the  honour, the news was overwhelmingly applauded – yet also caused a predictable  ripple of discontent.

After all, he is just – gulp! – a footballer.

Moaning about the worthiness of the Australian of the Year winner is the  equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel for your standard Australian  whinger.

They’re the same people who complain about the heat in summer, and sand at  the beach, and the traffic during school holidays, and how bad Seven’s coverage  is of the tennis.

Goodes is the first sportsperson to win the award since former Australian  Test captain Steve Waugh in 2004, and before that the likes of Pat Rafter  (2002), Mark Taylor (1999) and Cathy Freeman (1998).

Some will point out that sportspeople often won during the tenure of  Australia’s little Wallabies tracksuit-wearing prime minister and sports tragic,  John Howard, but let’s just assume it was a coincidence.

With all due respect to those indigenous sportspeople who have gone before  him – including Lionel Rose (1968) and Evonne Goolagong (1971) – Goodes’  influence can be immense.

A footballer, yes, but so much more than that.

On May 24 last year, a picture of Goodes ran on the back of some News Ltd  publications, with him standing in the middle of the SCG on sunset, lifting his  Swans jumper and pointing to his dark skin.

He was dipping his lid to another indigenous hero, St Kilda’s Nicky Winmar,  who 30 years earlier had lifted his shirt and said, “I’m black and I’m proud”  after Collingwood fans had baited him with barbs such as, “Go and sniff some  petrol.”

Niccky

Iconic image: Nicky Winmar raises his jumper in response to racial taunts at  Victoria Park on April 17,1993. Photo: Wayne Ludbey

“That’s exactly what the photo symbolises to me,” he said of Winmar’s  remarks. “Even today, 20 years later, it highlights how every indigenous person  should feel about their heritage.”

The newspaper image of Goodes that day – that came at the start of the AFL’s  Indigenous Round – was almost as significant as the iconic picture of  Winmar.

Imagine, then, the grief Goodes must have felt when he was standing near the  boundary line at the MCG later that night when a 13-year-old Collingwood fan  called him an “ape”.

“People don’t understand how one word can cut me so deep,” Goodes says in a  video on the Australian of the Year website, before later adding: “I haven’t  always been a confident, young man. I was shy growing up. I learnt about  standing up for what you believe in.”

Now, there’s standing up for what you believe in, and there’s standing up in  front of tens of thousands of people at the MCG and watching on TV at home and  on the 6pm news for the next week.

But it isn’t about that moment that makes Goodes a hero.

It is about the next day, when he took a call from a distressed teenage girl,  and then asked via social media for the community to support her.

It is about how he handled Pies president Eddie McGuire a few days later  after he joked on radio that Goodes would be a good promoter for the King  Kong stage production.

It is about the way Goodes has used his own ugly, heartbreaking experience  and turned it in the best possible tool to wipe out the stain of racism that is  still there, even now.

It is about the GO Foundation he has formed with cousin and former Swans  teammate Michael O’Loughlin in 2009, providing scholarships for indigenous  students.

It is about the last year when he has been at the forefront of raising  awareness of the issue of domestic violence.

Adam Gilchrist, former cricketer and Australia Day Council chairman, said  last week: “People might debate if we made the right choice, but they can never  say we made the wrong choice.”

Goodes will further a debate this country has been having since Australia Day  1788, with so much more to go, and surely that makes him the right one.

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