AFL ends probe into Hawthorn racism scandal with ‘no adverse findings’ against former coaches

The AFL today announced outcomes in relation to the Independent Panel Investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct at the Hawthorn Football Club.

From the moment that the Hawthorn Football Club’s Binmada report was leaked without any opportunity for input from the persons against whom serious allegations were made, it has been a period of high distress for all parties.

The AFL wishes to reiterate and acknowledge the significant emotional toll it has taken on everyone affected by this complex and delicate situation – those who told their stories and those who stood accused – and the public nature of how it has played out since late September 2022.

With this backdrop, any investigation was going to be challenging. We believe strongly, as we did in setting up the Independent Investigation in October 2022, that the appointment of an independent panel is and was the best possible way to deal with these serious allegations.

The AFL thanks panel Chairman Bernard Quinn KC and panel members Tim Goodwin, Jacqualyn Turfrey and Julie Buxton for their work over the last seven months. The purpose of the Independent Panel Investigation was to investigate relevant matters and make recommendations to the AFL including as to whether any persons should be the subject of disciplinary action for breach of AFL Rules and the resolution today should be viewed through that lens.

The AFL is only able to impose sanctions for breaches of AFL Rules on persons subject to the AFL Rules and respects the right of the various parties to the Investigation (and those who decided not to participate) to pursue claims in other legal forums. Today’s outcomes do not interfere with those rights.

Today the AFL, and the six complainants (“Complainants”) who took part in the process (“Parties”), with the endorsement of the Independent Panel including panel Chairman Bernard Quinn KC, have resolved as follows;

a) No adverse findings have been made in the Independent Investigation against any of the individuals against whom allegations have been made (“Individual Respondents”).

b) The Complainants wish to resolve all differences with the AFL.

c) As a result of this agreement, the Complainants do not wish to pursue the Independent Panel Investigation (which they wholeheartedly supported), or make any claims against the AFL in any other process (including the AHRC) or Court in relation to their allegations.

d) The Complainants agree that their allegations should not be further investigated by the Independent Panel.

e) The AFL has now terminated the Independent Panel Investigation with the consent of the Complainants with no charges to be brought against any Person subject to the AFL Rules as a result of the Independent Investigation.

The Parties make the following acknowledgements:

a) The AFL acknowledges each one of the Complainants feels hurt, pain and anguish following their time at the Hawthorn FC.

b) The Parties acknowledge that the manner in which their allegations were leaked to the media was not in any party’s best interests.

c) The Complainants acknowledge that the Independent Panel established by the AFL was a positive and constructive process for their allegations to be fully and fairly investigated in a culturally safe way and that they have only agreed to the termination of that process because of this agreement.

This agreement does not preclude the AFL from bringing a charge under AFL Rules against Hawthorn FC with respect to the commissioning and oversight of the Binmada Report.

The AFL greatly values all players and officials in our game and commits to working with all the clubs and all its people in continually improving the environments and ensuring they are welcoming, supportive and understanding of everyone who comes to our game.

There have been hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players who have played our game and who have collectively played more than 25,000 games.

The AFL knows that during the long history of our game there have been instances of racism and that players have been marginalised, hurt or discriminated against because of their race and for that we say sorry.

The AFL further commits to devoting significantly increased resources to its continuous improvement model focussed on measures to combat racism and the improvement of cultural safety of First Nations players and their families in the AFL and AFLW. We are wholeheartedly dedicated to meeting our obligations to make the game stronger and safer for all players, and we understand that requires us to continually address our structures and systems, and to this end, the AFL agrees to undertake a series of initiatives listed at the bottom of the statement.

Bernard Quinn KC, the Chairman of the Independent Panel said: “The panel supports the agreement and outcomes that have been announced today in connection with the investigation of the past several months and I can confirm that as part of the agreement the work of the Panel will cease.”

Finally, under the agreed terms for the resolution including the agreement of the Panel chairman to the immediate termination of the Independent Investigation, the AFL confirms that the Panel will not issue a report based on the information they have been provided to date.