Hawthorn’s abuse of Indigenous players hints at modern slavery

The AFL club’s treatment of Indigenous players, as alleged by the ABC, must be severely punished if proven true. Clichéd responses won’t do.

Former Hawthorn Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson (left) and former assistant coach Chris Fagan in 2015 (Image: AAP/Julian Smith)

Cue the corporate clichés: “historic allegations”; they’re being investigated; the welfare of players and staff is “our No. 1 priority”; it’s being taken “extremely seriously”.

The official line from the Hawthorn AFL club and the AFL itself seems like the warm-up to every corporate response to every major scandal of recent years — banks, insurance companies, aged care, casinos, mining companies. The line that you know means no one will be held to account, even if some board members or executives are moved on.

What the ABC’s Russell Jackson has revealed in his stunning, sickening report on the treatment of Indigenous players at Hawthorn — including players being coerced and manipulated into severing contact with family and partners and in one case demanding a pregnancy be terminated — is akin to modern slavery, and incorporates elements of it.