Tanya Hosch on healing country & changing AFL for the better

Tanya Hosch on healing country & changing AFL for the better

Tanya Hosch

Tanya Hosch is the first Indigenous person, and second woman to ever be appointed to the AFL’s executive.

She has been the Executive General Manager of Social Policy and Inclusion at the AFL since 2016, and as she told Women’s Agenda, she likes to think that her having a seat at the table has helped broaden the horizons of the code’s other executives.

“I like to think that the AFL executive has conversations now with me around the table that perhaps they wouldn’t have as regularly if I wasn’t,” says Hosch, who is very passionate about improving inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disability at the AFL.

“The lived experience and having the intimate knowledge of what it is like to face discrimination means that you can bring a more unique perspective, that people who have a less ready awareness of those things are able to bring.”

Hosch also says her lived experience makes her particularly passionate about inclusion, and she always feels a degree of accountability to the different communities she is a part of.

“It means that I’ve got a great stakeholder network too, to keep me informed about what’s happening on a daily basis on the ground,” she said.

“When you reach the level of an executive role in some organisations you can very quickly find yourself distant from a daily reality and I think that is one of the things that leaders are typically criticised for is being a bit removed from the daily experience.”

Since Hosch has come on board at the AFL, she has played an integral role in helping secure an apology from the AFL for Adam Goodes, and has instigated a review of the anti-vilification policy in the sport.

Speaking to Women’s Agenda in light of NAIDOC Week, Hosch said this year’s theme ‘Heal Country’ makes her think of the really important conversations we need to be having as Australians in relation to protecting our environment, climate change, and confronting the worst parts of the nation’s history since colonisation.  

“I think of all the really important conversations we’re having globally in relation to climate change,” Hosch explains. “Recognising that Indigenous peoples all over the world will be probably the most affected people on the planet in relation to the immediate challenges that climate change is producing for us all.”

“It makes me wonder in these global meetings to discuss these issues, where the voices of First Nations peoples are in relation to those very immediate challenges? We often hear it said that we’ve all got so much to learn from Indigenous people and yet we don’t necessarily seek those voices out when it comes to some of these critical issues.”

She says its important to think about what sort of healing we need to do as Australians with each other, “in terms of the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been treated and the policies that we’ve been living under and some of the incredibly traumatic consequences that have resulted.”

For Hosch, ‘healing country’ is not just about the maintenance and health of our lands and water, it’s also about healing as a whole nation and actively engaging in the reconciliation process, to ensure First Nations peoples are treated equally and fairly. She points to issues like incarceration rates, changing the age of criminal responsibility, the date of Australia day and the discrimination that still exists within the constitution.

Hosch shares that as a Torres Strait Islander woman who grew up and still lives in Adelaide, she has always had to think deeply about what it means for her to be connected to country.

“For me as a Torres Strait Islander woman who was adopted at three weeks of age…I’ve never lived on my traditional lands. I’ve often had to give a lot of thought to my connection and how I can learn to discover that, respect it and demonstrate an understanding,” she said.

“That’s an ongoing journey, for someone like me.”

You can hear more from Tanya Hosch on the next episode of The Women’s Agenda podcast, out later this week.

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