If Adam Goodes doesn’t make a bid for public office when he finally hangs up his footy boots, should he teach kids Australian history?
As Goodes again finds himself at the centre of another race debate, a leading academic says yes, the Sydney Swans champion should go into teaching after football.
Goodes sparked controversy when he told the BBC that “the history of our country is built on so much lies and racial policies, and things that have suppressed my people and lots of minorities in this country, so you can’t blame people for having the views that they have”.
“I can use my position to help educate people to see through the things that they’ve been taught growing up,” he said.
“Open their minds (and realise), ‘That’s not true: Captain Cook didn’t found Australia’ as I was taught in high school.”
While some commentators reacted with outrage, Professor Colin Tatz, a researcher at the Australian National University, said a career in the classroom was a way of teaching people the lessons of Australia’s past.
“He’s not strident, some people call him that. He’s gentle, he’s mannerly. If ever there’s an educator in our country, it’s Adam.”
But Goodes came under fire from Melbourne talkback radio host Neil Mitchell on Wednesday.
“The sooner Adam Goodes finishes as Australian of the Year the better, as far as I’m concerned,” Mitchell said.
“At times Adam Goodes seems not to like Australia.”
Goodes, who is widely booed by opposition supporters whenever he takes to the football field, was also criticised by talkback callers and on social media.
But Professor Tatz said Goodes was an exemplary choice as Australian of the Year.
“Adam Goodes I think is one of the best portraits of the Aboriginal experience today,” Prof Tatz told The New Daily.
“The people who’ve condemned his version of Australia’s history … have got it so totally wrong they’re in need of a junior high school history course.
“The country was founded on invasion and later on genocide, physical killing, removal of children and so on.
“Goodes is one of the few people who have that kind of a public posture and a public face that he can actually transcend a lot of the racism that exists in our society.”
And, after Goodes’ criticism of Australia’s education system, Professor Tatz said that sector would be a logical fit for the dual Brownlow medallist when he hangs up the boots.
“I would actually like to see him as an educator in both university courses and certainly in senior high school, perhaps even at the tail end of primary school,” he said.
“He’s articulate, has ideas, he can get down to the common level without being too difficult with his language.
Western Australian academic Sean Gorman, who has written on race relations through the prism of Australian Rules football in his books Brother Boys and Legends, echoes Goodes’ criticism of Australia’s education system.
“To some degree we’ve been failed by our governments, we’ve been failed by our educators, we’ve been failed by our education system which hasn’t been able to discuss and talk about these sorts of things,” Dr Gorman said.
“Someone like Adam Goodes is a great exemplar of resilience, determination but also, ultimately, someone who’s trying to be a peacemaker in a lot of these sorts of things.
“I think (what Goodes is doing) is something we should acknowledge and celebrate, and not denigrate and deride and get on the Twitter and the Facebook and the talkback radio saying he’s a joke or he’s a disgrace.
“I think that shows a lack of charity and a lack of fair-mindedness that Australians generally hang their hat on.”
Dr Gorman believes Goodes is Australia’s pre-eminent spokesperson on Indigenous affairs.
“I suppose after that you’d have to say someone like Noel Pearson occupies that space too, but is probably more aligned now with the right side of politics. He’s seen very much as a friend of the right,” Dr Gorman said.
“Whereas I think Goodes is, because of his status not just as a player, but also with what he did with (in highlighting) that 13-year-old girl, how those things blew up after Eddie McGuire’s gag that went terribly wrong about King Kong, coming out and talking about (filmmaker) John Pilger – it’s a sequence of events.
“I can’t think of anyone else, be they a politician or whatever, that sits in the same space that Adam Goodes does.”