opinion

'If the AFL were serious about domestic violence, Wayne Carey wouldn't have been on TV last night.'

Here’s something I’ve been pondering a little bit over the last 12 to 24 hours: When did we forget about Wayne Carey?

Not the affair – I can put every cent of my full-time-student part-time-working wage on the fact you haven’t forgotten about that affair. How could you? Could there be a greater crime to commit as an AFL footballer than sleeping with your teammate and best friend’s wife at a party you were both attending?

It was a crime against loyalty, against friendship, against the football world as one.

So we kicked him out of the country. The backlash to the betrayal was so fierce, so overwhelming, so passionate, we physically forced Wayne Carey to resign from his job and to leave Australia.

Except that affair, the affair we remember, isn’t the greatest crime Wayne Carey has ever committed. But for some reason, it’s the only one we’ve committed to memory.

Last night was White Ribbon night. A night dedicated to a belief we must build a future for Australians, and in particular Australian women, free from violence and from abuse.

Last night was also Round 19 of the AFL season. If you sat down in front your television, flicked to Channel 7 and indulged in a very Victorian-style Friday night, you would have seen Wayne Carey front and centre of the commentary panel.

And if that affair was the only thing you remembered about Wayne Carey’s past, the irony of his presence wouldn’t have hit you as hard as he has harmed women in the past.

In 1997, Carey pleaded guilty to indecent assault after grabbing a woman’s breast on a Melbourne street, allegedly asking her “Why don’t you get a bigger pair of tits?”

In 2007, Carey’s girlfriend Kate Neilson told police he had smashed a wine glass in her face, cutting her mouth and neck in Miami.

When police made it to the scene, Carey lashed out and kicked a female police officer in the mouth.

He was convicted for assaulting the officer, while Neilsen decided not to press charges against him.

Watch Respect: Our Australian Government anti-domestic violence ad. Post continues after video.

And yet, last night, as thousands used their time, energy and money for a cause that seeks to protect women from the antics of men like Carey, Carey was lit up in the lights of your TV screen, illuminated by a world that consistently protects the men who commit these crimes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Because just for a second, imagine if last night was a national night dedicated to extra-marital affairs. Especially those committed with your best friend’s wife. And then, imagine turning on your television and seeing Carey there, not a care in the world, elevated to a coveted media role and idolised by footy folk and fans alike. The irony is blinding.

And you would’ve noticed.

Those in Carey’s corner yell second chances, forgiveness and the ability to change. They plead: how long can we hold one man to account for a few mistakes?

Second chances, of course. Third? If they’re earned. But it poses the question of how many chances we actually have at our disposal to give out. How many times do we let it go before we collectively stand up and say that we cannot hold these men up, allowing them to be projected into our homes every week?

On nights like White Ribbon Night it is the ultimate insult to women suffering at the hands, and the fists, of violent men to have someone like Carey at the helm of a major TV broadcast. A night where he sat on television and blatantly ignored the proverbial elephant in the room that is his violent past.

The AFL have made no secret of their desire to take violence against women seriously. But the simple and sad truth of the matter is that the AFL simply cannot, and refuse, to keep up with the rest of us. Because if they did, if the AFL honestly wanted to effect change, Wayne Carey would not be where he is right now.

At the very least, the AFL needed to use that platform on White Ribbon night to talk about one of the biggest epidemics in recent years.

But instead, they ignored it. And used a perpetrator of violence to do the ignoring.

It’s as if somewhere along the line, our selective memory in choosing to focus our attention only on Carey’s affair betrays a much a deeper belief that no matter how much we talk about violence against women, we simply appear like the most repetitive of broken records.

We stopped talking about Carey because people stopped listening. But on nights like last night, we need to kick start the conversation again.

00:00 / ???