Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Hawthorn racism claim terminated by Australian Human Rights Commission

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The Australian Human Rights Commission has terminated a claim against Hawthorn by First Nations ex-players and their partners after the parties failed to come to a deal.

The commission’s decision – based on its view that the parties were too far apart – leaves the players and partners, including former champion Cyril Rioli and his partner, Shannyn, with 60 days to file and take the matter to the Federal Court.

The Hawks and their former players could not resolve the matter at the Human Rights Commission.Credit: AFL Photos

The sticking point between Hawthorn and the former players and partners was largely that the club was unwilling to make an explicit admission of racism in dealing with the players and partners, in allegations that were first raised in a cultural safety review commissioned by the club and that were reported by the ABC in grand final week of 2022.

The threat of the players and partners taking their complaint to the Federal Court still hangs over Hawthorn, which says it still wants to reach a resolution in the saga that has stretched on for more than 20 months.

Hawthorn and the plaintiffs had discussions, through their lawyers, around some form of an apology that did not involve an explicit admission that there was racism against those players – three of whom took the matter to the Human Rights Commission, according to sources familiar with the negotiations but who spoke anonymously because commission matters are confidential.

While the players and partners had been seeking financial redress for alleged mistreatment by the Hawks, no specific figure was nominated as appropriate compensation. Hawthorn had indicated for a long time that the club had been willing to settle.

It is still open for the parties to reach a deal after the Australian Human Rights Commission process has concluded, or for the players to file in the Federal Court and make their claim in that arena, which would be public.

Former Hawthorn coaches Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan, welfare manager Jason Burt and ex-football administrator Cam Matthews were the other parties involved in the discussions at the commission, each having met with the relevant players in an attempt to resolve any differences.

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