Families who attend AFL matches at Optus Stadium in Perth will have an important talking point during half time.
As they walk to the stadium holding their parent’s hand, the kids dressed in West Coast or Dockers or visiting colours might ask curiously about the new statue.
In their eyes, without knowing the story, they might wonder why he’s not kicking a footy or taking a mark; might be curious about the finger to the body, the raised shirt.
The parents will need to be ready.
Because the statue has implications for all Australians.
It’s an opportunity for the parent to help their child ask the right questions and develop empathy so that our community can become more unified.
During the unveiling ceremony, the words shared by the dignitaries—from the WA Premier, the AFL CEO and Mr Winmar himself—all suggested that they understood the impact the statue can have.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan spoke of the impact of the moment, when, in a match against Collingwood in 1993, Mr Winmar lifted his St Kilda jumper and declared, ‘I’m black and I’m proud.’
“There are moments in sport that capture the public imagination and transcend the game,” Mr McLachlan said.
“And Nicky Winmar’s defiant stance proclaiming his pride about his Aboriginality is one of those moments.”
“It helped change our game, and I hope, change our country.”
Through the political speak, you could hear that WA Premier Mark McGowan had an eye on the future during the unveiling.
“That moment is now part of Australian sporting folklore and the powerful message still resonates today. The statue will serve as a reminder that racism has no place in sport, or society generally, and is a fitting tribute to one of the greats of the game,” he said.
Being the most qualified to speak on the topic, Nicky Winmar drove the point home better than anyone else.
“I’d like to thank the AFL and the Western Australian Government for commissioning the statue, the artist has done an incredible job acknowledging this moment in my life,” he said.
“It’s a surreal thing to be a part of and it’s something my family are very proud of.”
“I hope this statue encourages more conversations and education about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture.”
And now, the responsibility is handed to the parents of the game’s youngest spectators, to read and ask questions and start conversations with Indigenous people.
All of this homework, so they can be ready for their greatest responsibility: to facilitate their education so a player in the next generation doesn’t need to stand up against racism because … there won’t be racism.”
By Keiran Deck