The Adam Goodes documentary answered most of my questions (Image source: Cross Light)
By Meika Bottrill | @meikabottrill
Last Friday night, my family did as we always do, sat down for a shared meal and reflected on our day.
After the obligatory conversations about work and university, we began talking about the Adam Goodes documentary: a topic that had been consuming the media and public discussion.
In 2014, I was in my second year of high school and was naive to the news and current affairs of the world.
I knew the name Adam Goodes and remember media coverage regarding the scandal, but my knowledge was limited.
“Why did the public show such hatred towards Adam Goodes?” I asked my parents who I believed would remember the incident more clearly than me.
“What makes Adam Goodes different from other celebrated Indigenous players?” I asked.
My parents are open-minded people who admitted maybe—just maybe—they didn’t truly understand the full story.
After dinner, we decided to sit down and watch The Final Quarter: the gut-wrenching documentary on Channel 10 about the Adam Goodes scandal of 2014.
In an entirely objective manner, director Ian Darling manages to capture the racial vilification that Adam Goodes suffered from in the AFL which eventually led to his retirement.
In the last three years of Goodes’ career, he endured booing from football crowds and racism from both the public and media.
What makes The Final Quarter different and so shocking to the general public is that it is composed entirely out of archival footage making the subject hard to ignore.
Press conferences, talk show panels, news articles, broadcasts and radio excerpts are combined to demonstrate the abuse that was directed towards Goodes.
The audience watches a young female Collingwood supporter call Goodes an ape and we see him stop in the middle of the game to call her out.
We hear a clip from Eddie McGuire, the president of Collingwood joking that Goodes should advertise King Kong the musical.
We see game after game where significantly loud booing can be heard whenever Goodes touches the football.
We watch as Goodes calmly and deliberately answers questions from the media and speaks out about the importance of acknowledging his Indigenous heritage.
Off-field Goodes became a face for an anti-racism advertisement called “Racism. It Stops With Me”.
During the scandal in 2014, Goodes focused on his foundation Go Foundation, stating that education was the key to creating a brighter future for Indigenous Australians.
Darling sheds light on the lack of support Goodes received from the AFL and reveals the way Australian media managed to frame racism incorrectly.
The documentary exhibits a sad truth about Australian culture, the unpleasant realities of racism and answers the question I asked my parents before watching it: what makes Goodes different from other celebrated Indigenous players is that he spoke out about his culture and showed pride towards his Indigenous heritage.
When Goodes bravely called out racism on and off-field, Australia had a problem with him.
When he was named Australian of the Year in 2014, Australia had a problem.
But this problem stems from somewhere deeper than dislike.
It arguably stems from the crowd’s ingrained potential for racism—whether conscious or subconscious—and demonstrates the need for education regarding minority communities.
Peter Gale, an associate professor of sociology at the University of South Australia, has been teaching and researching Aboriginal Studies since 1992.
Professor Gale has taught across a wide range of topics such as racism in the media, reconciliation and multiculturalism.
“The AFL is beginning to make some inroads into addressing racism through education and a focus on [the] respect of Aboriginal cultures,” Prof Gale said.
“However, at the time, the AFL failed to address the racism and to stand with Aboriginal football players…and to both name the actions of the crowd and some commentators as racism and to actively challenge racism at the time.
“Tens of thousands of people were involved in an overt display of racism, and media commentators defending the actions of so many as being normal and justifiable.”
You do not have to be a big AFL fan to understand the significance behind this story.
As an Australian, it’s confronting to watch, and the outcome of Goodes’ career is hard to swallow.
But as a human, the documentary is devastating.
“Aboriginal people in Australia remain the most disadvantaged group in Australia in all aspects of health, housing, education and employment,” Prof Gale said.
The Indigenous round in the AFL helps improve education about racism and gives Aboriginal people the respect they deserve.
But is there anything more the public can do?
Optimistically, I hope that this documentary does to others what it did to my family.
I hope it opens up a can of worms in our households, offices or friendship groups.
Five years after the events, we can only hope these conversations encourage us to address racism in the media because these conversations are fundamental in tackling racism.
“There are many opportunities to learn about Aboriginal people and cultures, and this is one way of addressing racism in contemporary Australia,” Prof Gale said.