Last updated: 02 Jul, 2018

The North Melbourne Football Club’s not-for-profit The Huddle, has launched the ‘Be Brave, Speak Up' campaign in a bid to stamp out racism in sport and the wider community.

Kangaroos Majak Daw, Jamie Macmillan and Emma Kearney joined forces with Melbourne United's Chris Goulding, New Zealand Breakers’ Majok Majok, and Western Sydney Wanderers’ Ruon Tongyik in the campaign initiated by young people from North’s not-for-profit arm, The Huddle.

In partnership with VicHealth, Scanlon Foundation, the City of Melbourne, Flemington Community Centre and Foundation for Young Australians, the ‘Be Brave, Speak Up’ campaign originated from VicHealth’s Voice your Voice program; a series of workshops hosted by The Huddle.

A small group of young people, aged between 13 and 19 years, were given the opportunity to create a campaign they felt strongly about, with racism the most common theme.  

Prominent athletes from different codes have assisted to raise awareness and highlight the importance of bystander support to victims in schools, workplaces and on sports grounds.

North defender Jamie Macmillan had no hesitation getting involved and is featured on the short video.

"We talk about being brave on the footy field, but being brave off it is more important with respect to helping fight racism and stopping people from being bullied and vilified because of the colour of their skin or because of their accent or where they were born," Macmillan said.

"The message here is quite simple; if you see something untoward or inappropriate, don't just be a bystander, be brave and speak up. What these young kids have done here is far braver than anything I've seen on the football field." 

The Australian Human Rights Commission has endorsed the initiative and will support a national uptake through the “Racism. It Stops With Me” campaign.

Fellow defender Daw knows only too well the damaging impact racism can have on individuals and communities having moved to Australia with his family at a young age from South Sudan and Egypt.

"Being racially vilified and targeted can be extremely damaging, especially to young people who are trying to fit in," he said. 

"A few years ago, I was racially abused while playing in the VFL and thankfully, I had a lot of friends, teammates and people at North Melbourne there to support me and speak up to say, ‘This is not okay’. Having those people there to support me meant a lot and helped me get through it, but not everyone is as lucky and this campaign will hopefully encourage more people to stand up to racism." 

The campaign will be broadcasted at North home games at Etihad Stadium for the remainder of the 2018 season.

AFLW superstar Kearney believes athletes and high-profile people can lead the way and was honoured to be involved.

"I really hope this campaign will help people use the power of their voices to stop racism," she said.

"I've said it a lot, that leadership from those most visible, like sportspeople and celebrities, can show the way because you can't be what you can't see. If we can be the example through initiatives like this, then hopefully others will see what sort of actions should be taken and it's not good enough to turn a blind eye.

“In today’s diverse and multicultural community, it’s important we embrace everyone’s cultures and traditions. Racism is not okay." 

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said stopping racism and building inclusive communities is vital.

“We know that racism and exclusion impact a person’s mental health – with strong links to anxiety and depression. It can also lead to reduced self-esteem, increased stress, drug and alcohol use and self-harm,” Ms Rechter said.

“As a community we can all take a stand and say no to racism when we see it. It’s not enough to stay silent on the sidelines – Be Brave, Speak Up to show your support for diversity and inclusion.”

City of Melbourne Councillor Beverley Pinder, welcomed the launch of the campaign.

“It’s heartening to see the young people in our community taking a stand and making sure their voices are heard,” Cr Pinder said.

“The City of Melbourne is an inclusive city and we want to ensure everyone, regardless of where they come from or who they are, feel right at home with a strong sense of belonging.”

There are plenty of great resources out there, in particular the Racism. It Stops with Me website 

Everyone can make a difference if they stand up to racial comments.

Supporting yourself and family
1. Looking after yourself and family and maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing is of the highest priority
2. Talking to someone about your experiences can help you stay positive
3. If you are going through a tough time or are concerned about someone close to you, the beyondblue Support Service or Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Support Services can help

Supporting others
1. We’ve all been a bystander at one time or another. It can be uncomfortable. Often people don’t respond because they don’t want to be a target of abuse themselves
2. Standing up to racism can be a powerful sign of support. It can also make the perpetrator think twice about their actions
3. When responding, always assess the situation and never put yourself at risk. Your actions don’t need to involve confrontation

If you see racist behaviour in public, you could:
- Say something if it feels safe. It could be as simple as saying, “Why don’t you just leave him/her alone?”

If it doesn’t feel safe to say something, you could:
- Think about how you can support the person being abused. Go and sit or stand next to them and check if they’re ok
- Tell someone responsible such as the driver if it’s happening on public transport or a coach if it’s happening at a sports club
- Call the police on 000 if you think that you or somebody else may be in danger