Nova Peris’s much-publicised teary exit from federal politics rang alarm bells through the upper echelons of the AFL and was a big contributor to her being overlooked for the League’s most-prized Indigenous job, the National Indigenous Times understands.
In a surprise appointment widely applauded in the Indigenous and footy worlds, the AFL yesterday announced that Recognise co-chair Tanya Hosch had been appointed its most senior Indigenous executive, a position previously held by Jason Mifsud, who had left the post to take up a role with the Victorian Government.
Ms Peris had been widely tipped to take the sought-after role. Last night she was unable to be contacted.
Football sources said that Ms Peris’s emotional press conference last month alongside a sympathetic Labor leader Bill Shorten had “worried” her supporters within AFL ranks who had been pushing for her to get the top job.
The former athlete, the first Aboriginal woman to win a Gold medal with the Hockeyroos in 1996, has recently been under enormous stress for a variety of reasons.
A 64-year-old chiropractor this week admitted using Facebook to post abusive comments about her which went viral. Chris Nelson pleaded guilty in a NSW Central Coast court to using a carriage service to cause offence.
Among the comments he posted was: “Go back to the bush and suck on witchity [sic] grubs and yams.”
It is unclear where Ms Peris will go from here.
Meanwhile, the AFL last night announced the appointment with much fanfare.
“Tanya’s extensive experience in public policy and advocacy in women and indigenous affairs is a major step for the AFL, and I am delighted that she is bringing her leadership to our executive,” said AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan.
Ms Hosch, a Torres Strait Islander who now lives in Adelaide, said she was looking forward to the job.
“I am a lifelong football supporter, and I am thrilled to be taking on this challenge at the AFL,” she said. “I am excited about working with the AFL’s Indigenous Advisory Council and in the broader area of inclusion and social policy.”
Brian Doolan, of The Fred Hollows Foundation, said no one was better suited to the job.
“Tanya has shown tireless commitment to the campaign for Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the Constitution, and I can’t thank her enough for her contribution,” he said.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Tanya as the AFL continues to be a big supporter in the fight for Recognition and Tanya’s commitment to the cause will only strengthen that.”
Earlier this week, new Labor senator Pat Dodson told www.nit.com.au that the Recognise campaign had been “confused and conflated” and admitted Labor’s chances of taking a referendum on Constitutional Indigenous Recognition to the people by next May was almost an impossibility.