Hawthorn review could go ahead without involvement of First Nations families, lawyer says

The AFL is continuing to investigate the historic allegations at Hawthorn, despite the prospect that a number of First Nations families will not participate.

A lawyer representing one of the families allegedly abused by the club said his clients were unsure whether they would be involved in investigating the allegations.

“My clients are still very traumatized and they’re not able to make a final decision on what path they can take,” Dr. Judy Courtin told ABC Sport.

“But this AFL survey is one of many options for my clients.”

The AFL issued terms of reference on Thursday for a four-person panel to investigate the mistreatment of players and partners at the club between 2008 and 2016, including head coach Alastair Clarkson and assistant Chris Fagan.

Clarkson and Fagan, who deny any wrongdoing, resigned from their coaching duties at North Melbourne and Brisbane respectively after the allegations emerged last month.

The AFL says the investigation will begin immediately and it wants the panel to complete its investigation by Christmas.

Dr Courtin called the timeline “overwhelmingly outrageous”.

Lawyer Judy Courtin is representing one of the First Nations families involved in the Hawthorn Review.(ABC News: Peter Healy)

“If my clients participate, they will have one month from today to gather all statements, allegations and documents to provide to the panel,” Dr. Courtin said.

“To make responses to other participants and then write final submissions based on all materials within a month.

“We have multiple parties, issues and allegations – to do this in a month and say it’s culturally safe is impossible.

“Why is it so urgent? Why is everything rushed? »

Dr Courtin said his clients feel drawn into an investigation that has no independence.

“This entire investigation, from inception to possible sanctions, is underpinned and guided by AFL rules,” Dr Courtin said.

“And in many ways, the AFL rules are a bit like AFL canon law, like the Church has canon law, its own system.

“[My clients] really feel overwhelmed by this process.”

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said he cannot guarantee families will attend, but he remains optimistic.

“Obviously we encourage complainants to tell their story,” McLachlan told reporters.

“We believe this is an independent and culturally diverse panel, it is a transparent mandate…and we are here at the request of the families.

“But ultimately it will be a decision of the plaintiffs and their attorneys.”

The investigation will continue regardless, McLachlan said.

“There is information the panel can work with, but it’s clearly a better and more complete investigation if complainants can work with the panel,” he said.

Dr Courtin said it would be a “whitewash” if some or none of the families participated.

“It wouldn’t be believable, you couldn’t give it much credit if half or all of the families didn’t participate,” she said.

It’s possible Clarkson and Fagan could return to training before the report is out, with pre-season set to begin soon.

Clarkson’s contract in North Melbourne starts in less than a fortnight.

“They would feel very betrayed by this,” Dr. Courtin said.

“We understand and accept that Clarkson and Fagan have to defend these allegations, but a lot of people are leaving their posts until there is an outcome.”

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