The Australian Dream

Mark Stephens writes on Stan Grant's documentary about indigenous AFL player Adam Goodes, and our desire to be seen for who we are.

This week I finally had the chance to view The Australian Dream, Stan Grant’s inspired documentary about indigenous Australian Rules footballer, and former Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes. Between 2013 and 2015, Goodes was the subject of racial abuse and booing from crowds around the country. The documentary depicts an ongoing national wound that is yet to heal.

One of the key moments comes in the middle of a period where Goodes was being relentlessly booed, game after game, any time he touched the ball. During the Indigenous Round of May 2015, a fixture deliberately created to promote Aboriginal contributions to the sport, the proud Goodes responded to a hostile crowd by performing an indigenous war dance. It was a chance for Goodes to make a stand. It was a moment of visibility.

Commenting on this event, the famous Collingwood player and coach, Nathan Buckley, said this:

“Adam’s no different to anyone else – all anyone wants is to be seen for who you are and respected for who you are. And when you don’t get that, that can be the most hurtful, debilitating response to get. What does that mean of the lifetime’s work I’ve put in? And we all respond when we feel like we haven’t been seen or we haven’t been acknowledged or we’ve been hurt.”

When Buckley said those words, it reminded me of one of the rarer names for God in the Hebrew Bible; in Genesis 16:13, God is called “the One who sees me.” Goodes wants to be seen and heard. So do I. So do you. I tell many people “you matter to me.” But it’s only when I “see” the other person that my words begin to mean something tangible.