Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has spoken publicly for the first time on the club’s racism review, revealing he was “horrified” by the historic allegations of mistreatment of First Nations players.
Kennett’s comments come after the Hawks commissioned a review into the experience of the club’s First Nations players, a review which turned up explosive results.
The fallout from the review has been significant, with former Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson and his ex-right-hand man, current Brisbane coach Chris Fagan, both stood down from their current roles as the AFL gets set to investigate claims made by a number of First Nations players.
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Clarkson and Fagan have both categorically denied the allegations and have also lamented the fact that they weren’t contacted by those conducting Hawthorn’s review.
Kennett explained that Hawthorn had been in the process of handing over the findings of the review to the AFL when the club learnt that First Nations players who’d partaken in the review had also spoken to the ABC.
He described the stories detailed in the ABC report as “heartbreaking to read”.
“The board met to consider the final review and, because of the severity of the contents, decided to inform senior officials at the AFL about the stories that were contained within the review,” Kennett said in a letter to Hawthorn’s members on Thursday evening.
“The board further decided that the review had to be given to the AFL’s Integrity Unit, as is required under the club’s AFL license, and because it was a key recommendation of the review.
“We also believed that we as a club did not have the personnel or the skillset to take the matter further.”
Despite the qualms from Clarkson and Fagan on the club’s review, Kennett refused to make any apologies.
“As a club, we do not apologise for asking our past and present First Nations players and staff about their past and present experiences,” he wrote.
“It is good practice to do so and will assist in our endeavours to provide a safe and nourishing environment for every member of our community.”
Fagan hits back at Hawks allegations
However, Kennett did sympathise with the suggestion that the staffers named in the ABC report had been somewhat denied natural justice as a result of the media coverage.
“Of course, our first concern is the welfare of the families who have made the claims and we are doing all we can to work with them. We are also concerned about the individuals and families who have been publicly named,” he wrote.
“A solution must be found quickly, and all parties should be prepared to work towards a solution, because not to do so will impact heavily on all involved.
“Those hurt by alleged past actions should have their right to natural justice served, and the club can continue to learn and grow in this important space.”
The AFL is yet to determine the four-person panel that will conduct the investigation into what took place at Hawthorn.
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