Adam Goodes and Racism in Sport

BY TRAVIS GREEN

WARNING: this article may contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

In July 2019 the NFSA hosted a screening of director Ian Darling’s documentary The Final Quarter, about the events that provoked heated public debate and the retirement of champion AFL player Adam Goodes.

Following the screening, the ABC’s Fran Kelly talked with Darling, ex-footballer Michael O’Loughlin and AFL Inclusion and Social Policy Manager Tanya Hosch about the film, Adam Goodes and racism in sport:

You can find available streaming options for The Final Quarter via JustWatch

Also mentioned in the panel discussion is Daniel Gordon’s documentary about Adam Goodes’ career, The Australian Dream (2019), for which you can find streaming options via JustWatch.

Go Deeper...

The Final Quarter

Poster for The Final Quarter featuring Adam Goodes surrounded by microphones.

Poster for The Final Quarter, 2019

Adam Goodes, champion AFL football player and Indigenous leader, had a stellar career with the Sydney Swans football club. Dual Brownlow medallist, dual premiership player, member of the Indigenous Team of the Century, four-time All-Australian, he is regarded as one of the greatest Australian Rules players of all time.

In the final years of his playing career he became a lightning rod for a heated public debate and widespread media commentary about racism in Australian sport. The cheers turned to boos, and ultimately forced Goodes into an early retirement.

Made entirely from archival footage, photos, and interviews sourced from news and sports media at the time, director Ian Darling's The Final Quarter presents the events as they unfolded, and different perspectives from the media, to encourage ongoing conversation on the topic.

Aussie Rules and Marn Grook

From its origins as the Victorian Football League to becoming a national competition in the 1980s, Aussie Rules (AFL) is arguably the nation's most popular sport. In the NFSA's curated collection you will find the earliest known surviving footage of a game (from 1909), an excerpt from an oral history with sports commentator Dennis Cometti, who for many of us was the voice of the Australian Football League, and footage about Marn Grook, an Indigenous football game from which it has been contended that AFL derived:

Marn Grook gives a good historical and political overview of AFL and how Indigenous men have used the sport as a way of making a living, or as a political platform to fight for Indigenous rights.

Nicky Winmar on Deadly Sounds

Listen to this short segment of Deadly Sounds, a weekly one-hour Indigenous radio program featuring interviews with special guests and music by Indigenous artists. Hosted by journalist, actor and author Rhoda Roberts, it ran for 21 years from 1993. In the first episode, Roberts discussed racism in sport with Nicky Winmar, St Kilda player in the AFL league:

The Deadly Sounds musical intro, which you can hear in this clip, emphasises the program’s focus on Indigenous music ('listen to black music, hear the deadly sounds’). To that end, the first episode also introduced the Deadly Sounds National Indigenous Music Chart, which helped give exposure to emerging and established Indigenous musicians. Deadly Sounds was distributed nationally to over 200 stations every week, initially on cassette and later through the Community Radio Network and National Indigenous Radio Service satellites.

Adam Goodes

Born in South Australia, Adam Goodes moved to Victoria as a young boy and developed a passion for AFL. His natural ability for the sport saw him scouted by the Sydney Swans.

After receiving the Rising Star Award in 1999, Goodes was awarded the Bob Skilton Medal and the Brownlow Medal in 2003. He received his second Brownlow Medal in 2006.

Goodes was influential in the premiership winning games for the Swans in 2005 and 2012, and co-captained the team from 2009–2012. He announced his retirement from the AFL in September 2015, leaving after a record-holding 372 games and as one of the most decorated players of all time.

In 2009, Goodes and former teammate Michael O’Loughlin set up the GO Foundation, with the vision to create a brighter future for Indigenous children. In 2014 he was named Australian of the Year.

Watch a compilation of highlights of Adam Goodes’ best career moments on the AFL YouTube channel.

Ian Darling

Ian Darling is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and philanthropist. He has worked as a director and producer in the Australian film industry for over two decades. 

He won Best Direction in a Documentary, along with co-director Sascha Ettinger Epstein, for The Oasis at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards.

Darling is the founder and patron of the not-for-profit Documentary Australia Foundation and Good Pitch Australia. In 2018 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to documentary film production, the performing arts, education and community engagement, and to social welfare organisations through philanthropic endeavours.

The NFSA holds copies of many of Darling’s documentaries, including Alone Across Australia (2003), In the Company of Actors (2007) and Paul Kelly: Stories of Me (2012).