The West

Footy star speaks out on vilification
WA football star Larry Kickett. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

Larry Kickett, Australia's only indigenous football commissioner, says Federal Government plans to repeal part of the Racial Discrimination Act can only be a backward step - particularly in the eyes of those who still felt regularly vilified.

Kickett said that while he did not view the government officials pushing the plan in a bid to enhance free speech as racist, the move did not respect Aboriginal people who were targets of racial abuse. The amendment sparked fierce nationwide debate last month, particularly after Federal Attorney-General George Brandis said "people have a right to be bigots".

It is currently under a community consultation process.

"You don't want to go backwards, let's move forward," Mr Kickett said.

"Why change something (back)? It's very strange and what does it say to the community? To me, that shouldn't happen … it will probably just open up old wounds."

Kickett, a former East Perth star who joined the WA Football Commission in 2011, is also an Aboriginal mentor involved in recruitment for Chevron Australia after stints with Rio Tinto and Woodside. He said cross-cultural training in corporate WA was helping to create less racial tension in the State, but believed a stronger education program in schools on vilification was now crucial.

"Across the board, there is certainly a big shift and a shift in the right direction," he said. "But if we can start getting involved in the schools, it's going to be even better."

Kickett said football was also making ground in "closing the gap", but the recent decision by budding star Dayle Garlett to leave Hawthorn and return home to WA was evidence that serious issues still needed to be addressed. He used his nephew Lance Franklin as an example of how a young Aboriginal from WA could leave home to craft a successful career interstate.

"Buddy went over at a 17-year-old to Melbourne, Hawthorn gave him terrific support and his parents also were there," he said.

"So he wasn't away from his family as such because his mum and dad were there. I see Dayle's comment was that he missed his family.

"The resources that go into an AFL club these days are worth millions of dollars and I think that if you're drafting a young kid like Dayle Garlett, invite his mum and dad over, or his family who will give support around him.

"To Hawthorn's credit, they gave him that opportunity, but if they had sat down with Dayle and said, 'Well, how can we make it better for you to stay here at Hawthorn and play at our football club?', I think one of the things he would have said would have been, 'I need my family around me'.

"Culturally, if you ever need someone to talk to or you've got an issue, you always go to your family. If they want to recruit Aboriginal people because of their flair and their ability, it would be worth investing a little bit of money."

See Agenda in tomorrow's Weekend West to read about the life of Larry.

The West Australian

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