A First Nations woman who alleges she was a victim of the "appalling mistreatment" during her time at Hawthorn is opting not to take part in the "unsafe process" of the independent investigation into the shocking claims made against the club by former Indigenous players and their partners.
In a statement released by Marque Lawyers on Wednesday morning, the woman, who is referred to as "Amy" for the protection of her privacy, has detailed key reasons as to why she has refused to take part in the investigation.
“I could either stay numb and silent, or I could find my voice and play my part in the struggle to try and create safety and protection for our young ones who would inevitably face these systems," Amy said.
Amy expressed several concerns as to why she has decided not to partake in the investigation, listing these key reasons:
- It is not an independent investigation
It continues the pattern of abuse it is supposedly addressing
It is being rushed
It is not culturally safe
It is stated that the findings of the Hawthorn Cultural Safety Review have left Amy to "relive her own trauma" and learn of the further mistreatment of fellow First Nations people by the club.
The statement claims the Terms of Reference released by the AFL last month are "materially different" from the version Amy received days prior.
who caused me all this trauma to then investigate the abuse?”
On Wednesday evening the AFL released a statement in the wake of Amy's decision, stating the league acknowledges the Gunditjmara and Bunitj woman's "pain, trauma and grief".
"The AFL acknowledges the response to the independent investigation from Marque Lawyers this morning," the statement reads.
"We acknowledge the pain, trauma and grief of the experience from “Amy” in the statement and it reinforces how serious these allegations are, and how important it is that the AFL treat them appropriately while ensuring a formal process that provides the opportunity to bring their experiences direct to the Independent Review in a supportive and respectful process to those impacted, and natural justice to those people against whom allegations of misconduct have been made.
"As previously stated, the matter was brought to the AFL by the Hawthorn Football Club along with the consultant that undertook the review, and given the seriousness of the allegations, it was important to set up an independent external
"The AFL can only investigate the matter under AFL Rules, as that is the only jurisdiction we have the ability to determine and - as we have said previously – our process doesn't stop any impacted person from taking separate legal action or seeking redress in another forum or jurisdiction.
"As part of the detailed consultation process preceding the commencement of the investigation, proposed terms of reference were sent to the lawyers representing the potential participants and we took into consideration all their comments and concerns. Ultimately there needs to be balance of considerations (including cultural safety and fairness) and different perspectives and no individual had all their requests met.
"While the AFL still has not been informed of the identities of the persons / families who have recalled their accounts as part of the Hawthorn Football Club review, or with the journalist who published those accounts, the independent panel will continue to work with the legal representatives each of the parties has retained."
You can read the full eight-page statement from Marque Lawyers here.