In 2015, Adam Goodes, a successful footballer at the height of his career – 17 seasons, two premierships, two Brownlow medals and the Australian of the Year award under his belt – was booed into retirement by the same nation who once celebrated him. What was his culpa? He called out a derogatory comment made by a young spectator. He was ultimately forced to walk away from his career and retreat from society.
Four years on, we have two documentaries released in the same year sharing Adam’s story. There was The Final Quarter — which aired on Channel 10 last month — a collection of archival footage tracing the demise of Adam Goodes’ AFL career. But the one that will linger in the minds of Australians is The Australian Dream. A film that explores the treatment of an Aboriginal man who stood up for his beliefs.
Australia is ready to talk about what happened. It’s ready to talk about the profound impact racism is having on those receiving it.
We often associate racism with overt slurs about appearance, false prejudices, and blanket characterisations. It’s a form of racism that’s not easy to mistake. Yet there’s another kind of racism that’s harder to identify: casual racism.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, casual racism is not so much a belief in the superiority of races but rather a negative prejudice concerning race often unintended to be racist. Casual racism can marginalise, denigrate or humiliate the people who experience it.
Whether it’s overt or casual, racism presents itself for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. In 2018, Beyond Blue ran a campaign that highlighted the damage racial discrimination can have on mental health. The creative and supporting videos shared sentiments of how it may feel to experience racism: feeling low and isolated, or avoiding catching taxis and dining in pubs for fear of encountering racism. The general message was that casual racism is a burden on the day-to-day lives of those experiencing it.
Research behind the campaign found that up to four out of five Indigenous people regularly experience racism. This was supported by the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are nearly three times more likely to be psychologically distressed than other Australians and twice as likely to die by suicide.
So, how can we stop this if we don’t know we’re being racist? It begins with education. As recommended by Reconciliation Australia, there’s plenty to read — fiction, autobiography, sport, politics, history and childrens books — that draws on the knowledge and stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Or watch — films, documentaries and TV programs — that focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, histories and cultures.
Why not start by watching The Australian Dream? Hear from Adam Goodes and a range of Indigenous and non-Indigenous voices. Listen to questions about what it means to be Australian and what it takes for any individual to stand up for what they truly believe in. The Australian Dream is a conversation starter, let’s keep that conversation going.
The Australian Dream releases on 22 August in cinemas around the country. Medibank acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Peoples of this nation. We proudly recognise Elders, past, present and emerging as the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we work and live.
We value the tireless work that Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations do around the country to support better mental health in communities.
READ MORE: A conversation with Adam Goodes