As a Yorta Yorta man from the Murray River region, my culture is fundamental to my identity.
In the spirit of National Reconciliation Week, and this year’s theme, More than a word. Reconciliation takes action, I wanted to write about my experience as a proud Aboriginal man, what my culture means to me, and how we need to be braver as we strive towards reconciliation.
Until I started playing AFL, I actually didn’t know a whole lot about being an Aboriginal person. It was while playing footy at Port Adelaide, that I learnt a lot about myself, the atrocities that my community survived, and our deep connection to the land and waters.
I also learnt about the power of truth-telling in helping Indigenous and non-Indigenous people come together.
For me, National Reconciliation Week represents us healing together and having respect and understanding for one another.
As we learn about Indigenous culture, we can all begin to relate to each other better, recognise the history of this land, and value the ongoing, rich cultural legacy of our home.
The AFL’s Indigenous Round, and cultural awareness education in clubs, has been a great way for me and other Indigenous players and fans to express our culture.
It has also been really helpful in bringing non-Indigenous players, spectators, and fans to celebrate and learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, art and culture.
When I first got drafted to the AFL, I instantly became a role model, and being Indigenous, I knew there was an added responsibility.
I not only have a responsibility to my family and my community, but also to the young Indigenous kids who look up to me. What I do on the field is important, but it’s what I do off the field that defines me.
I pride myself on being a leader, which is why I am an ambassador for Our Watch – a national leader in the prevention of violence against women and their children.
We know violence against women is a problem right across Australian society, but research shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience disproportionate rates of violence.
This violence is also more severe – Indigenous women are 32 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be hospitalised due to violence.
It’s a national tragedy that continues to plague our communities – Aboriginal women have been calling for stronger action on this issue for decades.
But this is not an Aboriginal problem, it’s an Australian problem.
To prevent violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, we must address gender inequality, as well as the ongoing impacts of colonisation and racism on Indigenous people. We are not all starting from the same place.
Our Watch research shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women face a number of specific barriers to reporting violence and seeking help. Many have had negative experiences of this in the past, and many therefore have a lack of trust in police, government agencies, and authorities.
There are also broader issues – the high rate of incarceration and Aboriginal deaths in custody means many Indigenous women are being forced to weigh up their own need to report violence, with the possible consequences of putting their men in jail.
These are big issues, and governments and services need to address them. But we can also all play a part. I believe every man must work as hard as every woman to elevate gender equality and to eliminate gendered violence, sexism and disrespect for women. And every non-Indigenous person must work hard to learn about Indigenous culture and take action to dismantle racism.
We can all challenge racist and sexist stereotypes and attitudes, and we can all call out disrespectful comments and jokes.
When we ignore or justify things like racism or sexism, we are prolonging a culture where Indigenous people, and particularly Indigenous women, are marginalised.
We must all move beyond words and take action because if you are not actively working to pull racism and sexism to pieces, you are supporting it.
Jarman Impey plays AFL for the Hawthorn Football Club and is a proud ambassador for Our Watch.
This opinion piece was originally published in the Herald Sun on 1 June 2021
*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:
“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.”
To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.
About Our Watch
Our Watch leads Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the structures, norms and practices that lead to violence against women and children.