Say what you like about Anthony Mundine, but his children are the real victims.

The children of  Australian sportsman Anthony Mundine, will likely one day tell their own kids about their grandfather. The fact that he was awarded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Person of the Year in 2000 will probably be included in their recounts, because kids usually see the best in their parents, no matter how controversial that person might be to society.

But of course, that’s not what most of Australia will remember Anthony Mundine for.

The boxer, who’s been appearing on our screens on Network Ten’s  I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, announced on Wednesday night that he’s prematurely leaving the show. “I miss my family and feel like I have accomplished everything I wanted to do,” he wrote on Facebook, in a rare reference to his personal life.

The former NRL player has always been controversial.

He’s been vocal about his positions on everything from 9/11 – “America’s brought it upon themselves”, to homosexuality – “it’s not in our culture”, and domestic violence – “for women who might disobey, it’s recommended to admonish them, leave them alone in their sleeping places and then beat them.”

His opinions have seen him widely criticised in the media, and by the general public, overshadowing his sporting achievements. This of course makes him a perfect contestant in an unscripted reality TV show, where this week he openly discussed his belief that women shouldn’t wear skirts that come above their knees.

“You don’t want other men having prerogative thoughts about your girl or your daughter,” he said, uncharacteristically mentioning his role as a dad.


LISTEN: We deep dive on the most problematic moments from I’m A Celebrity, on our pop culture podcast. Post continues…

The 42-year-old is notoriously private about his offspring, even telling The Sydney Morning Herald in 2014, “I try to keep my kids private from the public eye because they don’t need to be under scrutiny.”

But as Mundine seemed determined to dig a public relations hole for himself during his time the African jungle, reporting of his comments has seemed to want to throw his kids in there with him, with constant reference to their background.

For just one example, the Daily Telegraph  recently began a report, “He’s believed to have fathered seven children to four women, but there may be more – it’s one thing Anthony Mundine won’t talk about.”

And this is where we must pause to consider those children, and their mothers, as people, and not just part of a mysterious equation. Inherent in that narrative is something negative about the family life of Mundine’s kids; and that’s just not right.

Do we need to know “he has seven children to four women“? Couldn’t he simply be a ‘father of seven’? In the quest to portray Mundine as an outsider with strange ideals, is it necessary to cast aspersions on his family tree?

Anthony Mundine with his son Rahim during a press conference in 2007. Source: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Mundine has a 12-year-old son, Anthony Jnr, another son, Rahim, and a daughter, Jada, but not much is known about them as reporting around his children is scarce. The fact is, we don't know how many children Mundine has, and which of them have different mothers, but most importantly, we do not need to know. When his family is reported in this way, the implication is an invitation to do the maths;

Seven children by four women equals a very unorthodox man who's got a litter of kids and a trail of women and what kind of man does that? And, by association, what does that say about that man's children and their mothers?

Intentionally or not, such descriptions simply recycle the cliché of people being immoral if they have kids with multiple partners, as if it's a reflection of their weak characters and low standards. The hidden danger in that is how it can be interpreted by the children whose very family is being scrutinised.

The innocent parties in the equation remain actual people - this is their family, and no matter how that family came to be, or operates, they deserve to be spared our judgement.

Mundine and his daughter Jada at the MTV Australia Awards 2008. Source: Wendell Teodoro/FilmMagic

Legendary Rolling Stones singer, Mick Jagger, for example, has X number of kids with Y number of women. But that's rock and roll, baby! Yet Mundine, who almost sounds like Donald Trump's Twitter account read aloud? X number of kids with Y number of women equals another an onslaught of judgement.

In reality, it's just completely irrelevant.

When reporting on Mundine's claims and comments, no matter how outrageous we may find them, is it relevant to know that some of his children have different mothers? No. Can we describe a person as a father of seven, without inferring there's something wrong with it? Definitely.

Anthony "I was taken out of context by the media" Mundine is doing a good enough job of discrediting himself by spouting anti-social ideals, without us needing to question the circumstances in which his children came to exist.