How the AFL plans to tackle gender-based violence — and why questions remain

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun3,2024
This article contains references to domestic violence.
Over the past 24 hours, the AFL’s commitment to tackling gender-based violence has come into sharp focus as the issue garners national attention.
Violence against women has been labelled a national crisis by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, with 28 women killed in Australia since the start of the year, according to advocacy group Destroy the Joint’s project .
As part of its commitment to taking a stand, the AFL announced a new partnership with prevention group Our Watch on Thursday.
The partnership will be focused on educational training, with face-to-face workshops being rolled out to all AFL and AFLW clubs.

It comes after the league announced all clubs would come together to hold silent tributes ahead of this week’s matches, starting with Thursday night’s match between Adelaide and Port Adelaide.

The announcements followed comments from Essendon coach Brad Scott, who suggested a sacked player should be given another chance despite his alleged behaviour towards women.

How is the AFL addressing violence against women?

The AFL’s executive general manager inclusion and social policy, Tanya Hosch, said the partnership with Our Watch would be important for players and the broader community.
“We have a responsibility as leaders of our sport to ensure that players are educated, supported and provided with the tools to understand and develop respectful relationships and understand how to be active bystanders for gender equity,” she said.
“The training reinforces we are all responsible for treating women and girls with respect.
“We are proud to have partnered with Our Watch to deliver this crucial and important information to the playing groups.”

The training will educate players on the link between gender inequality and violence against women and the role of sport in promoting gender equality.

It will also cover how players can be active allies and take action when they see or hear disrespect.
Patty Kinnersly, CEO of Our Watch, said professional sporting clubs and codes can influence social change.
“Professional sporting clubs are incredibly influential when it comes to creating cultures of equality and respect, both within the club itself and through broader community engagement,” she said.

“Not only do clubs have significant influence, but there is a growing expectation across our society that clubs as workplaces will be proactive in ensuring they are safe, respectful and equal environments for all employees, athletes and members.”

Essendon player Nick Hind, whose cousin Hannah McGuire was allegedly killed by a man she knew, said family violence must stop.
“As AFL players and clubs, we have a chance to amplify this issue further into the spotlight so we can collectively influence a better future for our sisters, daughters, mothers and cousins,” he said.

“We must all speak up and magnify the call ‘enough is enough’ and this weekend will be a great step as all 18 AFL clubs unite together against gender-based violence.”

‘It can’t be a hollow once-off expression’

In a statement, chief executive Andrew Dillon said the league will “stand in solidarity in committing to do more to stop this community-wide problem”.
“We also understand our industry still has work to do, but we are committed to continuing to educate, to take action and even more conscious of that we must work harder than ever.

“All men are responsible for doing better.”

Dr Catherine Ordway, associate professor and sport integrity research lead at the University of Canberra, said she thought it was a positive gesture.
Speaking to SBS News ahead of the partnership announcement, Ordway said the AFL needed to show an ongoing commitment to change.
“For the AFL to literally stand up and to ask everybody to stand up, to be good citizens and good community members is a positive, that’s the starting point,” she said.
“But then you instantly go into, and then what? Is that it? It can’t possibly just be a hollow once-off expression, we’ve seen it before.”
Ordway said she would like to see the AFL introduce a rule similar to the NRL’s no-fault stand-down policy, where players accused of serious criminal offences cannot play until the completion of their legal case.
She also believes anybody charged with criminal offences should not be given commentating or coaching roles.
“These are leadership roles and they should have no part of those teams,” she said.

“That to me is completely unacceptable and we do need to take a stand about that.”

Essendon coach criticised over Tarryn Thomas comments

The announcement of the partnership with Our Watch came soon after comments from Essendon coach Brad Scott, who suggested a sacked player should be given another chance despite his alleged behaviour towards women.
Tarryn Thomas was dropped by the North Melbourne Kangaroos after being suspended by the AFL for 18 matches over threatening a woman and other misconduct.
Scott previously coached Thomas at North Melbourne and suggested he should be supported.
“As an industry, do we just wash our hands and say we’re done with him, or do we help him?” Scott said to reporters.

“I prefer to sit in the help camp.”

Scott said Thomas was a “good person” who had made mistakes.
“I’ve known Tarryn since he was 14, and my view is he’s a good person,” he said.
“But has he made some terrible mistakes? Yes, he has, and he’s the first to admit that.”
Thomas has not been barred by the league but must complete an education program before returning.
Scott’s comments were criticised by some online and in the media.
“This attitude feeds into the same attitude that is killing women. Let’s not pretend otherwise,”
Retired Geelong star Jimmy Bartel, who has spoken previously about and raised awareness around domestic violence, said he felt “very uncomfortable” at the prospect of Thomas returning.
“I get the whole premise of forgiveness and chances; he’s (Thomas) had a number of chances with his alleged behaviour,” Bartel said on Nine’s Footy Classified program on Wednesday night.

“But at some stage, there’s got to be a fork in the road, because the forgiveness angle hasn’t worked, because the (domestic violence) numbers are actually getting worse.”

Bartel said he leaned towards a “zero tolerance” approach.
He suggested Thomas could be rehabilitated or supported without being given another chance in the AFL.
“At some stage, the privilege has got to run out … it’s a privilege to play AFL, it was a privilege to get multiple opportunities, and now you’re getting the privilege of being spoken about getting another lifeline,” he said.
“Throw your arms around him, support him, educate him, but you don’t have to do that at AFL level.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence or sexual assault call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.
, operated by No to Violence, can be contacted on 1300 766 491.
Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “How the AFL plans to tackle gender-based violence — and why questions remain”
  1. As a lifelong AFL fan, I believe it’s crucial for the league to take a strong stance against gender-based violence. The partnership with Our Watch is a step in the right direction, but more concrete actions need to be implemented to truly address this issue. It’s time for the AFL to prioritize the safety and well-being of women both on and off the field.

  2. How is the AFL planning to ensure the effectiveness of the face-to-face workshops in tackling gender-based violence?

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