Goodes Furore shows blackfellas how deeply whites misunderstand

‘There is no greater role model than Adam Goodes to us blackfellas,’ says Dickie Bedford.

The Adam Goodes issue has shown Australia is at a critical junction in its relationship with its indigenous peoples.

While some may dismiss it as nothing more than a storm in a teacup, to me and many blackfellas in the Kimberley it has only highlighted the deep misunderstanding that remains between white and black Australia.

It reinforces our scepticism that while Australia — a country we all love deeply — pretends to embrace us, it fails miserably when it comes to taking real and significant steps towards truly understanding our culture, our lore and our traditions.

To make matters worse, the fact that Goodes was booed incessantly by a West Coast crowd at Domain Stadium has devastated many of us up here who are rusted-on Eagles supporters and who have cheered on so many black (and white) Eagles since day one.

Changes to the heritage protection laws that govern our sacred sites, threats to close some of our remote communities and silly comments from Tony Abbott about “lifestyle choices” have unsettled our mob in a way not seen for many years. But we’ve always had our footy to fall back on, regardless of the political punch-ups of the day.

I know how hard it is to get our young men into any sort of structured day, but they will run 10km across the desert to play a game of footy. You reckon you guys down there are passionate about the game? You come and watch a derby in the Kimberley and you’ll see what real passion is. Why? Because many young Aboriginal men who live in remote Australia see footy as their only hope for a better life. They dream of being the next Goodes, Wirrpanda or Rioli, of kicking the winning goal in a grand final, of soaring to take a screamer in front of a packed Gee.

But news that Goodes is considering retiring early because of the reception he gets when he runs out onto the paddock has bitterly disappointed all of us who love the game, especially our young ones. We don’t understand why people are doing it.

Was it because he picked out that 13-year-old girl? Or was it his war dance? Or was it because he just happens to be an inspiration to his people?

Hope and opportunity are not words that are used up here very often. This latest furore has given all those kids who want to be the next Adam Goodes a kick in the guts. Why would you want to succeed if all you do is cop abuse?

If we are to get ahead, to achieve, to hope and aspire, our young people must have role models to look up to.

There is no greater role model than Adam Goodes to us blackfellas. We are proud of his achievements, his drive, his ambition and the recognition he has won in the toughest arena of them all — white Australia.

So the next time you boo a footballer like Adam Goodes, remember you’re booing those young hopeful kids in the backblocks of Australia who only want a chance to showcase the unique skills and talents indigenous footballers bring to our wonderful national game.

Dickie Bedford, a former ATSIC commissioner, is chief executive of Marra Worra Worra, the biggest service provider to remote Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley.

Marra Worra Worra