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4 barristers appointed to panel to investigate Hawthorn FC racism allegations

An independent panel of four barristers, led by a Victorian silk, is set to examine recently published allegations of racism referred to the AFL by the Hawthorn Football Club. The panel has been welcomed by the AFL’s general counsel.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 06 October 2022 Big Law
4 barristers appointed to panel to investigate Hawthorn FC racism allegations
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The AFL has commissioned an independent investigation into allegations of bullying, misconduct and/or other inappropriate conduct by the Hawthorn Football Club — including by its coaches, football operations staff, independent contractors, management and/or board — towards some players on its playing list between 2008 and 2016 and in particular towards First Nations players, their families and/or their intimate partners.

Late last month, Lawyers Weekly explored the legal implications from the “very disturbing” allegations, first reported by ABC.

The panel will be led by Bernard Quinn KC, who has royal commission (Black Saturday bushfire) and coronial inquest experience and most recently undertook an independent review of allegations of plagiarism and other conduct of former AFL concussion adviser Associate Professor Paul McCrory.


Mr Quinn will be joined on the panel by barristers Jacqualyn Turfrey, Tim Goodwin and Julie Buxton. Ms Turfrey is a Palawa woman (Tasmania).

AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon welcomed the appointment of the panel members, stressing the importance of properly investigating the allegations. The panel has, he said, a strong and diverse mix of experience and skill set, as well as First Nations representation.

“These are very serious allegations, and it is important that we have an independent panel that is able to hear the perspectives of all involved and to provide natural justice to those making the claims and those who have had claims made against them,” Mr Dillon said.

“It is also vitally important that the panel is able to complete its work independently of the AFL.”

“Bernard Quinn KC, the chair of the independent investigation, and panel members Jacqualyn Turfrey, Julie Buxton and Tim Goodwin are all eminently qualified barristers that will be able to provide their intellect and significant expertise to the process,” he went on.

“The four-person panel, with their diverse backgrounds, including in respect of Ms Turfrey and Mr Goodwin as First Nations persons, will also have the ability to bring in additional outside expertise, whether that be in cultural safety, football administration or any other area the panel believes extra resources are needed.”

The investigation will look at the period covering 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2016. External legal representatives of the AFL are this week continuing consultations with legal representatives of the parties involved in order to finalise the terms of reference.

The panel is due to issue its report in December 2022. The findings from that report are expected to be made public.

Mr Dillon acknowledged recent suggestions pertaining to further inquiries or reviews across the league, but he said the initial priority was to investigate the information passed on from Hawthorn.

“Beyond this immediate investigation, we are open to listening to all the ideas that are being suggested; however, importantly for the short-term, we need to run a proper independent process on these allegations, and we believe this investigation will help inform whatever we do next as an industry,” he argued.

He said it was important that the final terms of reference document ensure:

  • The ability for all parties to share their perspectives, to hear the other side’s perspectives and to have an opportunity to seek cross-examination of other parties on their statements.
  • An opportunity for mediation if a party seeks it during the process.
  • Confirm a projected end date for the investigation in December 2022.
Further, the AFL wishes to provide a status update on the overall process so far:

The AFL does not know the identities of the persons/families who have recalled their accounts within the Hawthorn Football Club review or with the journalist who published those accounts. The AFL has repeatedly requested this information from their lawyers to assist in the good conduct of the investigation and related processes, which has been declined.

The proposed terms of reference and process plan for the conduct of the independent investigation were provided on September 2022 to former First Nations Hawthorn FC players and families by provision to Leon Zwier and Peter Seidel of Arnold Bloch Leibler, Hawthorn FC by provision to Chris Hartigan of Piper Alderman, Alastair Clarkson by provision to John Tuck of Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Chris Fagan by provision to Scott Sharry of Clayton Utz, and Jason Burt by provision to Tony Hargreaves of Tony Hargreaves & Partners. 

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