Former Australian football player Sam Newman has launched a scathing attack on First Nations people and the AFL over the inclusion of ‘welcome to country’ speeches before matches. While some readers of Cairns News may agree with Newman’s call to boycott smoking ceremonies, which he deems as not genuine Aboriginal cultural heritage but rather a stunt created by indigenous TV personality Ernie Dingo, others are questioning the basis for such criticism.
Newman’s main gripe lies with the AFL’s adoption of the welcome to country ceremony before games. He urges Australians to boo the traditional ceremony not only at the grand final but also anytime it is performed publicly. Newman argues that the ceremony, which has gained prominence over the past 20 years, is a push for reparation and financial power, suggesting that it is dividing the country rather than promoting unity.
His statements have sparked controversy and drawn criticism from various groups. His co-host on the podcast You Cannot Be Serious, Don Scott, challenged Newman’s views, leading to Newman doubling down on his stance. He believes that the ceremony is patronizing and a way for the AFL to absolve itself of any guilt or responsibility for past wrongs. Newman claims that many First Nations Australians share his views on the matter.
This is not the first time Newman has targeted the AFL regarding their recognition of First Nations people. Following last year’s AFL grand final, he mocked the eulogy of indigenous icon Uncle Jack Charles, referring to him as a “heroin-addicted indigenous felon.” Newman’s comments not only detract from the achievements and contributions of indigenous individuals but also perpetuate negative stereotypes surrounding substance abuse.
Newman’s criticism also extends to the AFL’s decision to have two welcome to country speeches before matches. He finds the speeches to be propagandistic and meaningless, claiming that they drive a wedge between the footballing public. Newman expresses his frustration with the Canberra mandarins’ use of green eucalyptus leaves in the foyer of the new Parliament House, labeling it as a Freemasonic edifice.
It is important to note that the origin of the welcome to country tradition is a point of contention. Newman asserts that Ernie Dingo and Richard Whalley, members of the Middar Aboriginal Theatre, invented the tradition in 1976 to accommodate Maori visitors from New Zealand and the Cook Islands who wanted an equivalent ceremony before performing at the Perth International Arts Festival. However, this claim is disputed by some and it is essential to approach such historical assertions with caution.
Newman’s outspoken views have triggered a wider debate on the role of indigenous cultural practices and recognition within Australian society. While some may agree with his sentiments, it is crucial to consider diverse perspectives and engage in respectful dialogue to promote understanding and unity.