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Hawks president criticises Indigenous players for speaking to ABC

Outgoing Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett has criticised the three First Nations players and their partners who spoke to the media about their experiences with the AFL club.

An external review commissioned by the club contained allegations key figures demanded the separation of young First Nations players from their partners, and pressured one couple to terminate a pregnancy.

Kennett said the players who spoke to the ABC should not have publicly named anyone.

“Sadly, they made a decision to talk to the press … they named people with whom they had very real issues,” he said.

“That was unfair to those [people], so therefore we need to have this resolved.”

Kennett, speaking at the club’s best and fairest awards night, said the club is not in crisis and has described the issue as a “bump along the highway”.

But he told the audience he was “somewhat flabbergasted — and worse” when he read the draft report of the club’s investigation into the experiences of Indigenous players and their partners while at Hawthorn.

He said that he hoped there could be a resolution to the report by the end of the year.

The report was handed to the AFL, which will establish a four-person panel to look at the allegations.

The racism claims were revealed last week, with four-time Hawks premiership coach Alastair Clarkson, his then-assistant Chris Fagan and ex-Hawthorn welfare manager Jason Burt named in an ABC report detailing historic allegations from some Indigenous Hawthorn players.

Clarkson, now at North Melbourne, and Fagan have stood down from their coaching duties.

“I do not consider this to be a crisis,” Kennett said.

“Hawthorn value our employees … equally and we are always trying to improve the support and services that we give our employees.

“When I read the draft report … I was somewhat flabbergasted — and worse.

“It wasn’t a good read. I hope this matter can be resolved quickly by all parties involved.”

Kennett said the people interviewed for the report had requested confidentiality and Hawthorn respected that.

“I don’t see this as a crisis — I know this club, I know its history and I know its strength,” he said.

“We will deal with this and assist in any way we can.”

Kennett also said the issues were historic and called on any Hawthorn employees to tell the club at the time if they believe inappropriate behaviour has happened.

“The one thing the investigation showed was that we have a safe cultural workplace now. So these are issues of the past,” he said.

He hopes there can be some form of mediation so any issues can be resolved quickly.

“It could be resolved before the end of the year so people can get on with their lives,” he said.

“We will never, ever apologise for doing what is necessary to put the welfare of our employees first.

“This has come as a shock. Something good will come of this.”

At the end of his speech, Kennett again insisted the Hawks would “overcome” the issue.

“Understand this as being a bump along the highway, but … it is an important bump and it has to be dealt with professionally,” he said.

“I will not accept the fact that we as a club cannot overcome this latest issue.

“We have the people, we have the desire and we have that indelible ingredient which is togetherness.”

AAP/ABC

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