Doco can help raise classroom racial literacy

The seminal documentary The Final Quarter, about AFL champion and 2014 Australian of the Year Adam Goodes, is a landmark teaching tool to raise awareness in teachers and future classrooms of the need for ongoing racial literacy and a deep and growing appreciation of what reconciliation means.

This sentiment is explored in a new book chapter by Flinders University senior lecturers and researchers Faye (Rosas) Blanch, Dr Sam Schulz and Dr Sam Elliott, entitled ‘Across field and classroom: The activism of Adam Goodes and the role of Australian teachers in tackling racism’. The research will be included in a new Routledge publication, to be called Contemporary Perspectives in Athlete Activism.

As Indigenous and non-Indigenous teacher educators working together, we recognise that action geared towards reconciliation is most effective when underpinned by appreciation of what reconciliation means, as well as commitment to racial literacy, the Flinders University researchers say in light of National Reconciliation Week 2021 theme ‘more than a word, reconciliation takes action.’

“We introduce pre-service teachers to three common descriptions including:

  • Conservative approaches, which view reconciliation in ‘practical’ terms such as offering First Nations peoples standard housing, health care and education;
  • Progressive approaches, which incorporate these elements alongside gestures like reconciliation ceremonies or flying the Aboriginal flag; and
  • Genuine orientations, which aim to raise all Australians’ critical understandings of the lands we share to collaborately resolve the complex issues that sustain inequality.

“Pivotal to this approach is the cultivation of racial literacy – the ability to read the world for its racialised construction and identify racism in its myriad forms,” says Murri woman and senior lecturer Mrs Blanch, who teaches Australian Indigenous studies.

“Accounts of life told from First Nations’ perspectives can assist this task.”

“To support pre-service teachers’ engagement with this story, we explore and contextualise the origins of these beliefs, many of which have settled into taken-for-granted truth,” says Dr Schulz, whose research includes poststructural and posthumanist orientations to race and whiteness as well as critical explorations of gender, violence, class, and culturally responsive schooling.

The Final Quarter (2019), a documentary directed by Ian Darling, documents the final three years of Adam Goodes’ Australian Football League (AFL) career. It has been made entirely from archival sources.

The documentary prompts important conversations about the prevalence of racism in AFL and in Australian society. Through telling the story of Adam Goodes, The Final Quarter endorses equality and equity both on and off the sporting field.

Dr Sam Elliott, from the Flinders University Sport, Health, Activity, Performance and Exercise (SHAPE) Research Centre, says the documentary illustrates that racism and AFL football are manifestly entwined – a point sharpened during the 2013 Indigenous Round when a 13-year-old spectator was escorted from the ground for racial vilification. Instead, the public’s vitriol turned against Goodes, who suffered 17 straight weeks of booing and heckling for his conduct which led to his retirement from the sport.

The documentary aims to encourage the community and school students to think about diversity, to affirm and celebrate difference, and to use their understanding of diversity to act with respect, empathy and trust.

As a curriculum resource, The Final Quarter expands and enriches students’ understanding of human experiences, including racism in its myriad forms.

Dr Schulz says students can discuss how racism operates at individual, institutional and collective levels, and how we can work together to transform racialised inequalities – “after all, a key part of Goodes’s career was raising awareness about racism in the spirit of reconciliation”.

The article was compiled and distributed by the Media Centre for Education Research Australia (MCERA), an independent organisation which promotes education research and expert commentary from specialist researchers to all media.

Flinders University teaching and learning researchers can alert MCERA about new publications via or call +61 434 436 084


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