'Educate yourself' - Crocker on tackling violence against women

North Melbourne Football Club's Darren Crocker at last month's Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat.

North Melbourne Football Club's Darren Crocker at last month's Leading Change Breakfast in Ararat.

THE IMPACT of violence against women didn't hit home for North Melbourne Football Club's Darren Crocker until an emotive presentation by a woman directly exposed to it.

That occurred in 2010, when on an AFL community camp in Ballarat, players and the club's coaching staff listened to a woman tell of her experiences at the hands of her violent husband.

"I could see the players and coach in that room, when this woman spoke openly, emotionally about the situation that she had found herself in," he said.

"She had a very violent husband, who was violent towards herself, violent towards her children and she spoke of how trapped she was in that relationship, because she felt that if she tried to walk away from this relationship she feared for her life and she feared for her children's life.

"That was the most powerful presentation I've had and I think my players had had to that point in regards to this issue."

Addressing the gathering at Ararat's Leading Change Breakfast, Mr Crocker also said the first time he was aware of any education around the treatment of women came just five years earlier in 2005.

"I was never exposed to violence against women growing up, within my close family network and when I played football for 14 seasons, there was no education around the area," he said.

"The first time there was any kind of education around this issue was 2005 when the AFL decided that somehow it needed to start educating players in this area.

"So it introduced its Respect and Responsibility program, that was aimed to create a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment for women and girls in football."

Mr Crocker believes when it was first introduced, almost a decade ago, the code of conduct wasn't having the impact it needed to be having on the individuals.

"I felt that when it was introduced in 2005 it was just a box ticking exercise, that it was the AFL saying, okay let's cover off that part of our need to make sure we are being socially aware," he said.

Mr Crocker said life lessons such as educating yourself about treatment of women are comparable to those on the football field, they are easier to learn with practical examples and demonstrations.

"In the AFL we're always trying to show our players a contested ball, it's easy for us to tell them what a contested ball is or what taking a risk and playing really proactive football is...

"However, until you show them what it actually looks like the players really don't understand, you've got to actually show them clear examples of what winning that contested ball is like.

"So for me, when this lady spoke up, it was the first time I had really seen what the impact of violence against women really looked like and I think our players took a lot away from that as well."

Mr Crocker said he has taken it upon himself to be further educated on the issue of violence against women and is encouraging everyone to take time to do the same.

"What I implore everyone to do, is to actually go and educate yourself about this issue," he said.

"The two most powerful moments for me were when that woman stood up in front of me and poured her emotions out, then for me to go and educate myself and realise that there have been times that I have let stuff slip and I have got to be better than that, I've got to be stronger than that.

"Now I feel I'm more equipped to be able to be stronger, because I am educated about it. Ongoing education is what we need to keep working towards."

Mr Crocker said he now has greater confidence in the AFL, that it too is doing all it can to educate its players about respect for women.

"From an AFL perspective and from a North Melbourne perspective, we really are getting on the front foot and we're really trying to educate our players in this space," he said.


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