By Peter Ryan
Updated September 10, 2022 — 4.09pmfirst published at 12.42am
The Western Bulldogs have described the AFL’s mandated minute’s silence to honour Queen Elizabeth II immediately after the Acknowledgement of Country ceremony and before Friday night’s Indigenous round match as “insensitive”.
The league reversed its mandate after the AFLW match between the Bulldogs and Fremantle and has scrapped it for the remainder of Indigenous round games.
Sixteen out of 18 clubs provided feedback to the AFL as to why the original call should be reconsidered, due to sensitivities.
“The Western Bulldogs acknowledges the passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the way this has been attributed around the world, including in Australia, as the country’s Head of State. The club also recognises the significant and ongoing feelings of hurt within Indigenous communities that stems from colonisation and what the monarchy represents since that time,” a club statement read.
“As the match between the Bulldogs and the Dockers last night specifically kicked off Indigenous round, the club believes the decision to hold a minute’s silence directly following the Acknowledgement of Country was insensitive. It heightened the feelings of hurt and unease among Indigenous communities, as well as among the players and spectators present and viewing the match.
“The club agrees with the AFL’s decision to withhold a minute’s silence for the remainder of the AFLW’s Indigenous round.”
Clubs were sent a memo late on Friday night after the league reconsidered its decision of earlier in the day in response to the Queen’s death. It followed clubs’ concerns about the lack of consultation with representatives, including Indigenous liaison officers, before the league’s decision was announced that a minute’s silence would be held at AFL, AFLW, and VFL games this weekend.
A club source said the AFL received feedback which provided potential alternatives for when the minute’s silence could be fitted into pre-game programs, rather than scrapping it, but the AFL decided to backflip on its decision, having held the minute’s silence before both the men’s and women’s games on Friday night.
Among the suggestions was to hold the minute’s silence immediately after the team warm-up on field, or when the gift exchange was to occur.
Bulldogs board member and Wotjobaluk and Dja Dja Wurrung woman Belinda Duarte was at and spoke before the game to explain that the planned Welcome to Country did not go ahead because of Sorry Business.
She said that while for many Australians it was appropriate to recognise the significance of the Queen’s passing, the formal recognition of her death before AFLW Indigenous round stirred up many emotions for First Peoples. She thanked those at the game and the club for their response and support.
“At last night’s AFLW Indigenous round match, the AFL-mandated minute of silence imposed a reflection on the impact of her life and reign. This unearths deep wounds for us. Whilst for many Australians it’s seen as appropriate to recognise the significance of the Queen’s passing, we must understand what this brings up for First Peoples, the impact of colonisation and what the monarchy represents to us and our families,” Duarte said.
“At last night’s AFLW Indigenous round match, the AFL-mandated minute of silence imposed a reflection on the impact of her life and reign. This unearths deep wounds for us.
“I want to acknowledge the sensitivity and consideration the players, staff and community expressed to me personally and collectively last night, and acknowledge the impact and influence it has since had more broadly on the round.”
There was a minute’s silence before Saturday night’s men’s semi-final between Collingwood and Fremantle, but no extra ceremony surrounding the start of the match.
In the memo sent to clubs the AFL said: “As AFLW season seven are Indigenous rounds, all existing plans to respect and honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will proceed as planned.”
The AFL had earlier released a statement saying: “In honour and remembrance of Her Majesty’s life, a minute’s silence will be observed before the national anthem at this evening and tomorrow’s semi-final matches and flags will be flown at half-mast. A minute’s silence will also be observed before all AFLW and VFL matches this weekend.”