Four Hawthorn families commit to AFL racism inquiry

Four of the Hawthorn past players and families at the centre of the AFL’s racism scandal have agreed to participate in the AFL’s investigation into the affair.

The AFL’s public commitment to a broader, industry-wide response – rather than a club-by-club, “crisis-by-crisis” approach to dealing with racism – had persuaded the families and players to take part in the investigation.

In a statement released via lawyers, Arnold Bloch Leibler – who represent four of the families – the players said they accepted the AFL’s commitment to a wider response as “demonstration of its good faith” and they would thus participate in the investigation by a four-member panel.

The agreement by the players and their families follows the spurning of the inquiry by “Amy” – the partner of a former Hawthorn player – who lost a child and detailed last week why she would not take part in the AFL probe.

Amy’s decision – coupled with the reluctance of another couple represented by Dr Judy Courtin – not to participate in the AFL probe had led to concerns that the inquiry would be greatly limited by the unavailability of key witnesses.

The commitment by the four players and families followed their open letter to the AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan and his commission last Friday night, asking for a broader, rather than piecemeal, response to racism.

“Our open letter to the AFL commissioners and Gillon McLachlan asked the AFL to have a good hard look at itself in relation to racism in the game and not to deal with racism on a club-by-club or crisis-by-crisis basis,” the statement said.

“In response, the AFL has now publicly committed to work together and coordinate a wider response to racism in the AFL. We accept and rely on this good faith, unqualified, binding commitment by the AFL and based upon it, we reaffirm our willingness to participate in the HFC Independent Investigation.

“We trust that as a further demonstration of its good faith commitment the AFL will now detail how and when it intends to commence this work, the terms of reference, who will undertake it, and if it will be open and transparent to the world.

“To the media and clubs who want to eliminate racism in AFL football, please hold the AFL to its commitment. We want the AFL to be re-aligned to the right side of history.

“We will stand testament to our truths. Our stories will be told, and they will be heard. Change for the better is coming. We are utterly determined to make the AFL a safer place for all First Nations players and their families.”

Senior coaches and ex-Hawthorn key figures Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan, who have said they want to assist the inquiry and have the opportunity to put their sides of the story, returned to coaching duties at North Melbourne and the Brisbane Lions, respectively, last week.

Hawthorn had attempted to enter into mediation with the players and families that would lead to potential settlements, but were unable to make progress in that step. Dr Courtin’s clients were the only party that entered a mediation discussion, and it did not last long.

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