To celebrate NAIDOC week this week, Neville Jetta and Toby Bedford sit down with Co-Founder Mitch Hannan from the AFL's Queensland hub, to discuss their footy, the rigors of 2020 and their pride in putting on the Demons jersey as indigenous players. The need to keep mental health top of mind has been clear this year, and both Nev and Toby reiterate the positive actions that have helped to keep them sane during hub life.
"The understanding and acceptance of history, and First Nation's People, and the lack of education that has been missing, things that have gone unsaid. People are out there now, wanting to get a greater understanding of the land they live on, the traditional owners, and our history as Australia"
M.H - "What are some of the tools to keeping a positive approach to your own mental health?"
N.J - "A few things. One of the biggest things that helped me early on was meeting my wife Samantha. Through her, I was able to get connected with the local community, and met a lot of people that I wouldn't otherwise have met. To have that community connection, and that understanding of the traditional owners, who are the elders, how it works in a different part of Australia was different for me. Showing respect, is always a big one for me, to those in the community"
M.H - "How have you been able to seek reciprocal support from your partner Sam?"
N.J - "In terms of roles being reversed, she started going through her own mental challenges. And I definitely needed to be the rock for her, that she was for me in my time. I tried to be there as much as possible, and the biggest thing was probably understanding what she was going through. To probably educate myself on some of the stuff she was facing was probably the best way for me to go about it. Also sitting with her, in some of her sessions, to understand why she needs to do this to get back to do what she wants to do - that was probably the biggest thing"
"I just know from now on, that whenever I am down, I've always got people I can speak to. When I got to the club, I probably didn't start out playing my best footy. But I always had blokes like Neville there, who from the very start has been a mentor in a way"
M.H - "Toby, are you able to elaborate on the importance of a support network of mates, one that you are able to lean on for the important conversations?"
T.B - "Outside of football, its probably portrayed as a hard sport - like they are all blokes who don't talk about their feelings. When I got to the club, I probably didn't start out playing my best footy. But I always had blokes like Neville there, who has been there from the very start - a mentor in a way. I came through the Next Generation Academy, and I had spoken to Nev a fair bit coming into the club. I just know from now on, that whenever I am down, I've always got people I can speak to. There are a lot of blokes that I can speak to - people like Kozi Pickett, I know he's a first year player but he probably goes through the same things. Vice versa, when he is feeling down, I feel like I can talk to him. I feel like he can relate being a bit younger"
M.H - "What is the importance of having indigenous role models, like yourselves, in the AFL?"
N.J - "Going to be different answers, from the both of us, me being more senior player in the league, Toby still coming through. To have the opportunity, as an indigenous player to go out and play in Indigenous round, or the season in general, is one that we are very proud of. We understand what comes with being an indigenous AFL player. To carry that, is something that we are very proud of. We understand, how important indigenous players are in the game because we were those young kids that looked up to the players of the past. It is not something that I take for granted. I try my best every week, because I know that I can inspire the next generation of indigenous kids coming through"
T.B - "I'm pretty proud to represent my family. Proud to be playing AFL, and like Nev said, you look up to all those players growing up, then all of a sudden you are on the same level and it is a bit surreal. More so this year, getting to wear the jumper designed by Neville, who is a massive role model to not only myself and the other indigenous players, but also to the wider indigenous community - getting to wear that was unreal. I know it made me feel proud to wear that jumper and to be indigenous. And also proud of him for designing such an amazing jumper"
"We've been talking for so long to ask for help. To help connect, to help people understand. But it is when non-indigenous people grab that, and run with it, when we start seeing a shift. In 2020, it's been awesome to see that"
M.H - "How has focus shifted in regards to the awareness of mental health within the indigenous community?"
N.J - "The understanding, and acceptance of history, first nations people, and the lack of education that has been missing, thing that have not been said - people are out there, wanting to get a greater understanding of what land they are living on, the traditional owners, our own history as Australia - the real history, the truth. To really invest into the indigenous communities, and to show that they care, to show that they want to learn, and connect. That's probably the biggest thing. That within our footy club has been a massive shift, since I've been here. People are not just leading to the indigenous players, the club wants to take the responsibility and lead from the front. Other clubs are doing it, the AFL is doing it. It is great for indigenous people as a whole, because we have been talking for so long - to ask for help, to help connect, to help people understand. But it is when non-indigenous people grab that, and run with it, is when we start to see the shift. And 2020, it's been awesome to see that"