A country football league in Western Australia has been ordered to have female representation on its board and introduce an Indigenous welfare officer after claims of racism and sexism at one of its clubs.
- A female and indigenous voice has been recommended to be included in the South West Football League
- League president Barry Tate says South Bunbury Football Club was “hard done by”
- Former female players are yet to see the report
The WA Football Commission has finished an investigation into the South Bunbury Football Club, which operates under the South West Football League, after it’s entire three-time premiership women’s team quit.
It was sparked by an on-field racial vilification incident in May when a player from the South Bunbury Football Club men’s team made a racial slur towards a Noongar man from the rival team.
South Bunbury women’s coach Maxwell Jetta, who is a Noongar man and cousin of former AFL players Lewis and Neville Jetta, quit after the incident, saying he was disappointed in how his club dealt with it.
Several further incidents led to the whole female team quitting.
Report not made public
The report was handed down in-person to the South West Football League on Thursday afternoon and a media statement was released late on Friday evening.
The report has not been made public by the league or commission, but three of the commission’s 10 recommendations were included in the statement.
One required the need for a female voice on the league’s board, and another was for an Indigenous welfare officer to be made available for clubs.
The commission also suggested an independent audit into the inadequacies of female football.
Women at South Bunbury have voiced disappointment about how they were treated, including the lack of a female change rooms and lack of recognition or celebration of the team’s successes over the years.
There were also serious claims of sexist behaviour towards women at the club.
In one incident, a male club leader was forced to apologise to the women after referring to being at a strip club during the women’s season launch.
Footy club ‘hard done by’
League president Barry Tate said the process revealed the club had followed all of the correct protocols and proved they weren’t a racist or sexist club.
He said the league had already worked to secure an Indigenous welfare officer.
“South Bunbury acted very promptly in everything they’ve done and I think South Bunbury have been hard done by in some ways here as a football club because they’re hurting as well,” Mr Tate said.
In the same statement released on Friday night, the South Bunbury Football Club said it accepted the findings of the integrity report.
“We proudly stand by our club ethos and are in no way a racist or sexist club,” the statement reads.
It says the club accepts report findings “of this nature”.
“Our club will continue on its path of cultural awareness education and also continue to create an inclusive environment for all who play their part at our club,” it reads.
Complainants yet to see report
Former South Bunbury women’s player Kate Fielding, who was involved in the investigation process and part of the teams leadership group, said she had no idea the report had been handed down and had not yet seen the results.
Ms Fielding was one of the players who was suspended for organising her team to wear black t-shirts during a game warm up in support of their coach quitting and to make a stance against racism.
She has since transferred to Carey Park Football Club.
“It’s pretty disappointing we haven’t heard anything despite being part of that hearing,” Ms Fielding said.
She said she was pleased with the three recommendations that had been made public but said it would be hard to hold the league and club to account without seeing the full report.
“I think our goal was to see some real changes put in place that’s why we’ve been quite outspoken … so that it doesn’t happen again,” she said.
“The Indigenous welfare officer is a great thing for the league … and then the female representation in the league I mean it’s an obvious one.
“It’s sad that it’s taken a review to figure that out but I’m hopeful that will be a positive change for the league and I would hope that it’s more than one person.”
The ABC has sought a copy of the full report from the South West Football League and comment from South Bunbury Football Club.
Source: AFL NEWS ABC