Hundreds heal with St Kilda’s Nicky Winmar 30 years on from racism stand against Collingwood

MORE than 1000 people have flocked to Victoria Park on Tuesday night for a traditional healing ceremony marking the 30-year anniversary of Nicky Winmar’s proud stand against racism, including some of the game’s greatest Indigenous players. 

On April 17, 1993, Winmar lifted his St Kilda guernsey and pointed to his skin and declared: “I’m black and I’m proud to be black” in a seminal moment in race relations in Australia, following a day of racial taunting by Collingwood supporters at Victoria Park. 

That iconic image will live forever and has since been immortalised in bronze statue form outside Optus Stadium in Perth. 

‘IT DOES STILL HURT A LOT’ Winmar on 30 years of pain

But on Tuesday night, two days after Collingwood apologised for the way Winmar was treated 30 years ago, the Saints team of the century and Hall of Fame member was joined by many in the AFL and wider community for a traditional healing ceremony.

Indigenous greats Jeff Farmer, Michael Long, Gilbert McAdam, Leon Davis and Des Headland were all involved in the ceremony at the Magpies’ spiritual home, with Nathan Lovett-Murray organising the event on behalf of his company, Indigenous Sports Network.

Before Farmer kicked 483 goals across 249 games for Melbourne and Fremantle, the man universally known as “The Wiz” grew up idolising Winmar, wanting to follow in the wingman’s footsteps and make it in the AFL. 

“I’m super proud. I was a mad, fanatical St Kilda supporter growing up and Nicky was the reason why. For what he went through and what he actually did that day to say enough is enough, I’m black and I’m proud, whatever you say can’t hurt me, can’t change me and you’ll never break me,” Farmer told on Tuesday night.  

“For us, to be out here and to be able to support Nicky, I’m really proud. He created a pathway for us, so did Longy and he stood his ground by saying he’d had enough of racism as well. I’m glad that so many people have come out to show support.”

Jeff Farmer (centre) shares a laugh with Nathan Lovett Murray during Ngarra Jarra Noun Healing Ceremony at Victoria Park on April 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Gratitude was one the theme on the night with more than 30 people expressing their appreciation for the bravery Winmar showed 30 years ago, although there was a hope more progress would have been made to this point, following the ongoing racial abuse of Indigenous and First Nations players, including Jamarra Ugle-Hagan last month. 

Farmer said continual education is needed in society to keep making progress in order to ensure more moments like Winmar and Ugle-Hagan aren’t required to stem the flow of racist abuse. 

“It is going to take a bit of time, we’ve got to be real,” Farmer said. “We’ve just got to keep educating people, keep making people understand, no matter what colour we are, no matter what race we are, no matter what gender we are, we are still human beings. We all bleed the same. 

“At the end of the day, treat people the way you want to be treated. Hopefully in the end we will be able to live in a country that is proud of everyone, no matter where you come from, that you’re respected and loved for being a human being.”

Collingwood president Jeff Browne and captain Darcy Moore both addressed Winmar and a group of 50 in a smaller healing circle in a pocket of Victoria Park. 

Moore, who became skipper in January and has quickly shown his leadership qualities in a number of difficult settings, said he wants to play his role to ensure the next generation aren’t forced to live with racism. 

“Nicky has left an extraordinary legacy and he’s left a powerful impact on so many of us here. Seeing the young ones here today really inspires me to keep working towards a shared future where we can all walk together in solidarity. It’s an honour to be here,” Moore said.

Nicky Winmar and (inset) Wayne Ludbey’s iconic 1993 photo. Picture: AFL Digital

McAdam was the loudest and proudest at Victoria Park, returning to the venue where he was racially vilified by Collingwood supporters back in 1993. 

The former Saint and Bear looked around at those present and reminded them not to forget the progress they’ve made since then. Winmar was the first Indigenous player to reach 200 games, now more than 30 surpassed that mark. Eight have played 300 or more, including Shaun Burgoyne who is one of only five players in AFL/VFL history to reach 400 gams. 

Gilbert McAdam speaks during Ngarra Jarra Noun Healing Ceremony at Victoria Park on April 18, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

“Him and Chris Lewis were the first to play 200 games. That was in 1993. 30 years ago. You know how many 200 game players we’ve got now? You have a look at how many 200 games we’ve got now. This is 30 years. We’ve accomplished a lot in 30 years I’ll tell you right now,” McAdam said.

“300 game players. Micky O’Loughlin, Goodesy (Adam Goodes), Shane Edwards, Gavin Wanganeen, in the space of 30 years that’s what we’ve created. Plus we had a bloke that’s kicked a thousand goals. If that’s not inspirational nothing is. And I forgot to mention Shauny Burgoyne!”

Heritier Lumumba and Joel Wilkinson were both present and both spoke during the intimate healing ceremony.

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