Sport puts race issues on sidelines

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton sport identity Adrian Bartlett at his workplace, the Department of Sport and Recreation office on Foreshore Drive.
Camera IconGeraldton sport identity Adrian Bartlett at his workplace, the Department of Sport and Recreation office on Foreshore Drive. Credit: Tamra Carr, The Geraldton Guardian

When Aboriginal sport leader Adrian Bartlett experiences racism, he does it with “fairly thick skin”.

For him, the offensive words, negative assumptions and stereotypes matter most when there are children and people he cares about around, when their sense of self-worth is put at risk.

He said there was still a “long way to go” to solidify Aboriginals and their culture as an important and respected part of Australia.

However, there was one area where Bartlett thought the journey to reconciliation was almost complete: sport.

“There’s no better way to bring people together,” Bartlett said.

“Particularly with events such as the Indigenous Footy Round, it’s such a great way for people to share history, culture, and language.”

Sport has certainly been a big part of the athlete and administrator’s life.

He first stepped into the Geraldton sporting community aged 8 to play for Chapman Valley Football Club’s junior side.

Now, 42 years later, Bartlett still kicks the ball around for Chapman Reserves and has coached, umpired and “blown a whistle” for any team in need.

He is chief executive of Geraldton Sporting Aboriginal Corporation and chairman of Murchison Regional Aboriginal Corporation.

He is an eternally frustrated Fremantle Dockers supporter — happy with their one-point win against Brisbane last week — and a father of children who play in the Great Northern Football League.

Proud moments in Bartlett’s career involve coaching junior footy sides to premierships, including Chapman Valley’s U14s side’s first grand final win.

He said the most difficult aspect of working with children was having to exclude some from matches, when there was only a limited number of spots available to field a side.

For Bartlett, sport has proven itself to be a critical part of bridging gaps between people and elevating the world’s oldest culture and its people.

During Reconciliation Week, he hoped to see Geraldton and the country at large continue to forge respectful relationships, promote Aboriginal language and history in school and dismantle racist attitudes and behaviours.

This year, the theme for Reconciliation was “truth”.

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