Football Australia (FA) has become the latest national sports governing body to develop and implement a reconciliation action plan (RAP), a program endorsed by Reconciliation Australia that aims to build and strengthen football’s relationship with First Nations communities.
- FA’s “Reflect” RAP was created in collaboration with past and present First Nations players
- The RAP aims to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the game and society more widely
- RAPs are becoming more common as sports bodies seek to recognise and reconcile with with First Nations communities
It is the first time football’s national body has launched its own RAP, with it following in the footsteps of other organisations such as the AFL, NRL, and Cricket Australia.
The RAP was created in collaboration with FA’s inaugural National Indigenous Advisory Group (NIAG)which includes a number of past and present First Nations participants such as Karen Menzies (the first Aboriginal woman to represent the Matildas), John Maynard, coaches Frank Farina and Tanya Oxtoby, former Socceroo Jade North and current Matilda Kyah Simon.
The RAP was also spearheaded by the organisation’s first-ever engagement lead for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Courtney Hagen.
Through its three core pillars of relationships, respect, and opportunities, FA’s “Reflect” RAP sets out a long-term framework that will empower and educate those within the sport about issues that continue to face First Nations people in the pursuit of reconciliation.
Despite the long history of First Nations involvement in and contribution to football —stemming all the way back to pre-colonisation days — the game has often failed to provide genuine, practical, and sustainable opportunities and platforms for these crucial voices and experiences.
For NIAG co-chair Jade North, the RAP is the first step in rectifying that historical neglect and creating a path forward for the entire game.
“I’m greatly encouraged by the decisive action Football Australia is taking towards meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous people,” he said.
“There are countless individuals and organisations who have commenced this work long before the national body and I wish to acknowledge this work as it has contributed to bringing and keeping our mob in the game.
“Now, as Australian football are bringing full focus into this work, this action plan is just the first step of many to connect to community and embed equity into the delivery and function of football more broadly.”
Some of the key commitments within FA’s “Reflect” RAP include:
- Building internal capacity for decision-making as guided by the perspectives of NIAG members
- Establishing and strengthening mutually beneficial relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders and organisations
- Implementing best-practice strategies to showcase past and present First Nations football participants
- Developing programs that educate and raise awareness of First Nations cultures, histories, knowledge, and rights through cultural learning across the sport
- Create strategies to improve employment outcomes by increasing First Nations recruitment, retention, and professional development
- Increasing the opportunities for Indigenous procurement and partnerships
“As Australia’s largest club-based participation sport, with 2 million participants and over 200 different cultures, Australian football understands and welcomes the integral role we can play in our nation’s reconciliation journey,” FA CEO James Johnson said.
“Through the process of developing this Reflect RAP, we have had an opportunity to reflect on the significant contributions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to our game and Australian society more broadly.
“We are going beyond reflection alone and have pledged to undertake measurable tasks that directly and indirectly contribute positively to address disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.”