WorkSafe Victoria is investigating Hawthorn over alleged treatment of First Nations players

WorkSafe Victoria is urging anyone who had concerns at Hawthorn to come forward, as the workplace safety guard opens an investigation into the AFL club over its alleged treatment of First Nations players.

An external review by the club details allegations that key figures at the club kept players away from their partners and encouraged a couple to terminate a pregnancy.

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Four-time Premiership manager Alastair Clarkson, former Hawks football boss Chris Fagan and staffer Jason Burt have all been named in an ABC report detailing historic allegations by some Indigenous players.

Clarkson and Fagan have firmly denied the claims and have resigned from their positions in North Melbourne and Brisbane until the matter is resolved.

WorkSafe is in contact with Hawthorn and will visit the club on Monday for interviews.

LAUNCESTON, AUSTRALIA – JULY 10: Hawks head coach Alastair Clarkson looks on prior to the Round 17 AFL game between Hawthorn Hawks and Fremantle Dockers at University of Tasmania Stadium on July 10, 2021 in Launceston, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images) Recognition: Daniel Pockett/AFL photos/via Getty Images

“Every Victorian worker, regardless of cultural background, has the right to a healthy and safe workplace,” said Dr. Narelle Beer, chief executive of WorkSafe Victoria, in a statement.

“WorkSafe takes allegations of workplace bullying and discrimination very seriously and can take enforcement action when employers fail to protect the mental health of their employees.

“WorkSafe has begun investigating the recent allegations related to Hawthorn Football Club.

“WorkSafe urges anyone who has experienced or witnessed a health and safety concern at Hawthorn Football Club to contact WorkSafe to provide a statement.”

Alastair Clarkson and Chris Fagan at Hawthorn’s base in Waverley Park in 2016. Recognition: Robert Cianflon/Getty Images

The WorkSafe investigation will be conducted separately from the investigation by the AFL, which will set up a four-person panel to review the allegations.

The AFL still hasn’t completed the panel, although it originally said it would do so before last week’s grand finals.

Outgoing Hawthorn president Jeff Kennett called the leaking of racism allegations at the club “unfair” and hopes the unfolding saga can be resolved by the end of the year.

Speaking at the club’s Best and Fairest awards event on Saturday night, Kennett said the club is not in a crisis and described the problem as a “bump along the highway”.

But he told the audience he was “a little taken aback – and worse” when he read the draft report on the club’s investigation into the experiences of Indigenous players and their partners at Hawthorn.

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James Brien

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