As Q+A returned to screens in a new Thursday night timeslot, the season-opening episode saw influential Indigenous Australians Warren Mundine and Tanya Hosch turn the spotlight on racism in sport and the wider Australia community.
Warren Mundine detailed the culture of racism he has seen at the Collingwood Football Club throughout his life
Panellists said the problem with the culture at Collingwood went beyond president Eddie McGuire
Former foreign minister Alexander Downer said he did not see racism very often in the Australian community
It came days after an independent report commissioned by Collingwood Football Club showing it was guilty of systemic racism was leaked, while club president Eddie McGuire called it a “historic and proud day”.
But Mr Mundine said the problem went beyond the club’s influential president.
“Whether Eddie McGuire’s there or not, to me, is not the important part. It’s not all just about Eddie,” he said to laughter from the audience.
“It goes further than Eddie. If you look at Collingwood … I remember as a young kid dealing with some of the issues they had back in the ’80s and ’70s and that.
“I talked to a lot of Aboriginal players and the things that had been said to them and how they’d been treated and the abuse.”
Ms Hosch, who is part of the AFL executive, said the conversation should not be about McGuire but racism in general.
“Sporting clubs in general are made up of not just the athletes, but the fans and the staff and a whole range of people, and the thing about this week and what’s gone on — I really wish that we were just using the ‘r’ word more,” she said.
“I wish we were talking about racism instead of Eddie because that is actually the point.
“Racism is pervasive, it is everywhere, and the work that Collingwood has committed itself to is important because what it says is, ‘This is not pretty, but we’ve got to face up to it’.
“I think that dealing with racism is bigger than just one person and dealing with racism at that club will be an ongoing issue.
“Because whenever you decide to deal with racism, there is no quick fix, it’s not a matter of just changing the people at the table.”
Mr Mundine relayed some of his experiences as a younger man playing football at a lower level.
“Even though I was a terrible footballer and I never made the top grade, I remember playing in park football and that, and the things that were said to us to put you off your game the abuse and the racist stuff,” he said.
“[You’re taught], ‘You’re male, you’ve got to keep your mouth shut and get on with the game’, well you can’t.”
Former foreign minister says doesn’t ‘see [racism] very often’
The episode also saw former foreign minister and diplomat Alexander Downer say he had rarely encountered racism in the Australian community.
“I don’t know that getting stuck into one person is going to get us very far,” Mr Downer said of McGuire’s term as Collingwood president.
“I think the bigger issue is the way people are treated when they are part of a football team, you would expect them to be judged by, to use Martin Luther King’s famous words, ‘the content of their character, not the colour of their skin’, and particularly in that case, the quality of their play.
“I reckon most people do … it’s a minority of people who judge people on racial grounds and make racial slurs.
“You don’t see it very often. But you do see it occasionally. And it’s important that we do express a fair degree of intolerance towards it because it’s insulting and rude and offensive and it’s divisive.”
But Ms Hosch said this was not her lived experience as an Indigenous woman.
“You don’t see it very often? I can tell you I see it every day. I see racism every day,” she said.
“I see all different forms of discrimination around me all the time. And, yes, my lived experience might mean that I see it because it is part of what I know to be true, and I think that that’s what’s interesting.
“A lot of people like to talk about racism from the perspective of, ‘Well, you know, there’s these particular incidents but actually, it is systemic.
“And we do have to get real about that, and we’ve got to finish the conversation about what we’re going to do about it.”
Australian of the Year backs call to change the date
The panel also turned its attention to another recent topical discussion — whether the date of Australia Day should be changed from January 26.
Mr Mundine and Ms Hosch both said they wanted to see the date changed, while Mr Downer called for separate days to recognise both Indigenous Australians and settled Australians.
Grace Tame, who was last week named Australian of the Year for her advocacy for sexual assault survivors, said the debate should her from more First Nations voices.
“Honestly, my opinion on this shouldn’t really matter,” Ms Tame told the panel.
“I think this debate should be dominated by Indigenous Australians.
“It costs us nothing to change the date. We can still celebrate Australia, we can celebrate Australia every day, I know I do. But to change the date would mean so much to our First Nations people, and I think that’s the least that we could do, to change the date.”
Ms Tame had earlier received a message from a viewer thanking her for having the courage to stand up to and call out the mathematics teacher who abused her as a teenager.
While an audience member told Ms Tame she was “grateful” for the work she had done to empower others who had been victims of assault to tell their stories.
Watch the full episode on iview or via the Q+A Facebook page.