Adam Goodes has spoken out about the “toxic” environment in AFL and called on the country’s politicians to do more for Indigenous Australians.
Goodes admitted the racist treatment from rival fans forced him to quit AFL in 2015, mercilessly booed for the final few years of his career.
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The former Australian of the Year called out a young Collingwood fan during a game in 2013 after being racially abused.
Rival fans then turned on the Sydney Swans champion, forcing him out of the game two years later.
He was so disenfranchised that he declined to take part in the retiring players parade at the 2015 grand final.
Goodes has now opened up about the furore in an interview with British journalist Stephen Sackur for BBC’s HARDtalk.
“Me choosing to walk away was me making a choice for my own mental health,” he said.
“And I needed to get away from this toxic environment which, up until that point in time, had been a safe place for me to just be an incredible player that I wanted to be and to learn to be the leader that I was.
“But here I had the choice to submit myself to this toxic environment or get away from it and really reassess my priorities.”
Goodes admitted he’s much happier five years on, saying he was glad to get away from the public torment he suffered.
“I think the biggest thing that’s changed for me is that I’m not putting myself in a situation for that abuse to be put on me every time I went to work,” Goodes said.
“So that’s the biggest thing that’s changed for me. I’m incredibly happy … and I’ve definitely moved on from that part of my life.”
Goodes said he believes more people are “woke to racism, especially casual racism.”
Adam Goodes calls on politicians to do more
Sackur also asked Goodes for his thoughts on Australia’s politicians and their treatment of Indigenous people, referring to Prime Minster Scott Morrison’s recent support for Captain Cook and comments that the country has never had slavery.
Mr Morrison later backtracked and admitted “all sorts of hideous practices” had taken place.
Goodes replied that much more needs to be done.
“I don’t know if they’re listening or not,” Goodes said. “There’s other issues going on in our country that they think need more attention.
“You have to remember, we’re 2.8 per cent of the population here in Australia, so not much time and effort is put into working with us as Indigenous people.
“And when I say working ‘with’ us, that’s listening to us, taking our advice and creating good governance and policy behind it.
“We have some incredible Indigenous leaders now in our parties which is great. We need more of it.
“For me, I will work with government, I will help them achieve their KPIs when it comes to Indigenous outcomes but I don’t have time to wait for them and Indigenous people don’t have time to wait for the government to get this right.
“So we’re working with corporates here in Australia who understand it, who see the value here in Australia of working with Indigenous people whether it’s for education, employment or philanthropic work.”