AFL and Cricket Australia must take action following revelation of early star’s connection to massacre of Aboriginal people

Sep 18, 2021

The Co-Chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria is calling for the Australian Football League and Cricket Australia to meet with First Nations groups to discuss ways to ensure the historical figures they memorialise unite rather than divide the community.

Assembly Co-Chair and proud Nira illim bulluk man of the Taungurung nation, Marcus Stewart, said reckoning with our past is the key to creating a future as equals.

“When I take my son to enjoy a game at the ‘G, I don’t want to show him statues of blokes who killed our people. I want him to see art and culture that reflect the kind of diverse and equal society we want Victoria to be. Where’s the statue of Johnny Mullagh the test captain of the first 11 for example?” said Mr Stewart.

ABC News reported on Saturday the discovery of a 1895 article in the Chicago Tribune which suggests Tom Wills – Australia’s first cricket star and a “co-inventor” of Australian Rules football – participated in a horrific massacre of Aboriginal people.

“If this bloke not only pinched our game of Marngrook, but massacred our people, then really we need the AFL and Cricket Australia to have a good hard look at what kind of messages they will be passing on to our kids if they continue to contribute to the whitewashing of our history,” said Mr Stewart.

The Assembly has successfully negotiated the establishment of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission to oversee the first formal truth-telling process in Australia which will have the statutory powers of a Royal Commission.

“Facing up to the brutal realities of invasion might be confronting for a lot of people and organisations, but it needs to happen. Truth-telling is the first step towards healing and creating a better future together. That’s what Treaty is all about,” said Mr Stewart.

The Assembly is the representative body of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Victoria in the Treaty process and has been tasked with establishing the framework for future Treaty negotiations between Traditional Owners and the Victorian Government.

“Whether your family has lived in Victoria for five years or 50,000 years, truth-telling and Treaty have the potential to bring us closer together. But we can’t do that if our politicians and institutions, including the AFL and Cricket Australia, aren’t willing to have the hard conversations,” said Mr Stewart.

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