Adam Goodes, AFL Icon and Social Justice Advocate for Indigenous Australians

Proud Adnyamathanha and Narungga man Adam Goodes is renowned nation-wide, and not just for his outstanding AFL achievements. Beyond the football field, Goodes is heavily involved in his work as a social justice advocate for Indigenous Australians. Goodes uses his public profile and influence to stand up and speak out against racism and push for quality education for young Indigenous kids in remote communities.

Adam Goodes. Photo credit: Paul Miller, courtesy of AAP, 2015.

AFL career 

It was in Ballarat, Victoria that the young Goodes developed a passion for AFL. Goodes’ natural talent for AFL saw him quickly fly through the ranks, resulting in his drafting by the Sydney Swans. In 1999, Goodes made his senior AFL debut and won the AFL Rising Star award. The footy legend then went onto achieving bigger and greater things, as he became the second recipient to receive Australian Football's highest honour, the Brownlow Medal, as well as becoming a member of the Indigenous Team of the Century and a representative in the International Rules Series (Black Inc., 2021). 

In 2015, Goodes officially retired from AFL and decided to focus on his advocacy and philanthropic work (Black Inc., 2021). 

Speaking out against racism

Image from the documentary “The Australian Dream”. Courtesy of Iview, 2021.

All throughout Goodes’ football career, he  actively supported Indigenous community groups and spoke out about Indigenous rights, particularly issues concerning racism. These social justice issues also affected Goodes personally, as he experienced racism within his football career. In 2014, he was named Australian of the Year for his advocacy work fighting against racism and empowering young Indigenous people through education (Anzsog, 2021). The incredible documentary The Australian Dream (2019) explores Goodes’ experience of racism and his identity and belonging as a First Nations Australian. Goodes has made a significant impact on how racism is talked about and addressed in Australia, particularly within sports, bringing about critical conversations and change. 

GO Foundation

Go Foundation presentation with Goodes and O’Loughlin. Courtesy of ARA Group, 2021.

It was in 2009 that Goodes and his teammate Michalael O’Loughlin set up the Goodes-O'Loughlin Foundation, otherwise known as the GO Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to empower young Indigenous Australians through education. Go Foundation’s scholarship program provides access, opportunity and support for Indigenous students throughout school and university to help ensure that their education is as rich and rewarding as possible. 

The GO Foundation commissioned KPMG Arilla Indigenous Services to investigate if the completion of higher education by First Nations students results in better social, cultural and economic outcomes for the students and their communities. The research showed that yes, it does, and that by First Nations students achieving a higher education, it also increases their earning capacity and a better state of physical and mental health and wellbeing (GO Foundation, 2021). 

In an interview with The Guardian (2017), Goodes expressed his passion for Indigenous education: 

“For me it’s about supporting our Indigenous kids and completing that whole journey: early childhood, primary school, high school, university and then career. I want to be a part of that process all the way, wearing lots of different hats.”

Support of the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation 

Adam Goodes, Board Member of ALNF taking some time out to connect with a group of inquisitive kids in Taree. Courtesy of ALNF Facebook, 2021.

Speaking of wearing different hats, Adam Goodes is also a proud Ambassador and Board Member for Yarn’s wonderful community partner, the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF). When joining ALNF in 2017, Goodes made the statement:

“I am looking forward to working with the team at ALNF. I have seen first-hand how the foundation works and I am looking forward to empowering more community members to help educate their nieces, nephews and children, now and for future generations.” - ALNF, 2017

Together with ALNF, Goodes has carried out lots of groundwork, visiting disadvantaged communities and supporting ALNF’s initiatives and programs. These specialised literacy programs are designed to overcome the many health, developmental and social hurdles faced by vulnerable First Nations children. As an ALNF Ambassador, Goodes led a fundraising collaboration with David Jones in 2017, which raised over $100,000 for ALNF’s Literacy is Freedom campaign. David Jones donated 100% of the profits from a limited-edition tee designed by Camilla, Viktoria & Woods and The Academy Brand (ALNF, 2021). 

Like Goodes’ advocates, we must remember that education is the key to learning, understanding and parting away from prejudice and the wrongdoings of the past. By Goodes continuing his advocacy and philanthropic work, he is supporting the progress towards reconciliation for generations to come, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike.

Keep your eyes peeled out for Goodes’ first children's book Somebody’s Land releasing this coming November! Check out our previous article to read more about Adam Goodes’ book here.