AFL and the Indigenous Community

About AFL & the Indigenous Community

Australian football is the sport of choice for Indigenous Australians.

The Indigenous population makes up two and a half percent of the total Australian population; from this, 90,000 participants are involved with AFL programs around the country. Indigenous Players make up 9% of our AFL list.

The AFL’s state and regional programs play an important role in engaging with communities. Find out more about state AFL Indigenous Programs:

For information about WA and NT email the state Indigenous Managers:

The connection the AFL has at a national, state and regional level allows us to provide a unique opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to work together in partnership. The AFL’s Indigenous Partnership focuses on:

  • Acknowledgement
  • Recognition
  • Community Development
  • Reconciliation
  • Commitment

More about the AFL’s Indigenous partnership


The AFL acknowledges Indigenous Australians are Traditional Custodians of this land and have been practicing culture for over 60,000 years.

The AFL acknowledges and respects the customs, values and traditions of Indigenous people and their special relationship with the land.


The AFL recognises Indigenous peoples’ contribution to Australian football and their importance to the growth of the game.

The AFL values and benefits from the skills, knowledge, experience and culture of Indigenous people

We recognise family life is the core of Aboriginal community life and these relationships involve particular sets of social and cultural obligations.

Community Development

The AFL seek to use Australian Football as the vehicle to improve the quality of life in communities throughout Australia.

We are committed to working in partnership with Indigenous people and other stakeholders to improve:

  • Employment
  • Education
  • Health and participation outcomes for Indigenous people and their communities at a local level

The AFL will promote Indigenous and non Indigenous people working together to progress reconciliation. Reconciliation will be achieved when there is respect for and recognition of cultural diversity.

We are committed to the reduction of racism and discrimination; all our community must enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect. This is exemplified by our award winning Religious and Racial Vilification policy.

AFL Indigenous Achievements
Top 10 Indigenous players by games
  • 300 - Gavin Wanganeen (Essendon/Port Adelaide)
  • 291 - Andrew McLeod (Adelaide)
  • 278 - Michael O'Loughlin (Sydney)
  • 268 - Darryl White (Brisbane)
  • 264 - Chris Johnson (Fitzroy/Brisbane)
  • 253 - Peter Matera (West Coast)
  • 251 - Nicky Winmar (St Kilda/Western Bulldogs)
  • 227 - David Wirrpanda (West Coast)
  • 237 - Jeff Farmer (Melbourne/Fremantle)
  • 217 - Adam Goodes (Sydney)
Indigenous Player Honours
  • Three Brownlow Medals: Adam Goodes (2003, 2006), Gavin Wanganeen (1993)
  • Six Norm Smith Medals: Maurice Rioli, Peter Matera, Michael Long, Andrew McLeod (twice) and Byron Pickett
  • Twenty-four All Australian players
  • Twenty-seven Premiership players
  • Three NAB AFL Rising Star award winners: Byron Pickett (1998, Adam Goodes (1999), Danyle Pearce (2006)
Further Honours
  • Four Indigenous players were picked up in the 2007 NAB AFL Draft; a further six were recruited in the Rookie Draft
  • Since 1980, 156 Indigenous players have made their AFL/VFL debut. Prior to 1980, just 23 Indigenous players had played in the elite competition
  • In 2008, three Indigenous players have been nominated for the NAB AFL Rising Star Award: Josh Hill (Round 2) Cyril Rioli (Round 6), Austin Wonaeamirri (Round 7)   
  • In 2009 there were 94 AFL SportsReady Indigenous Trainees: 44 full-time, 10 part time and 40 school based. This equates to 17% of all traineeships nationally
  • This year 10 Indigenous players were picked up in the NAB AFL Draft and two were recruited in the Rookie Draft
First Aboriginal Player

The first known player of Aboriginal descent to play at AFL level was Fitzroy’s Joe Johnson, who played 55 games, including premierships in 1904 and 1905.

To date there have been 195 players known to be of Aboriginal descent who have played AFL football and in 2013 there are 68 players of Aboriginal descent on AFL lists.

That growth recognises both the ability of players of Aboriginal descent and the clubs’ efforts to recruit them.

Geelong’s Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, who revolutionised the game with his use of handball and was named in the AFL Team of the Century, and Carlton’s Syd Jackson were stars of the 1960s and early 1970s. Both were from Western Australia.

A great reference for information about players of Aboriginal descent who have excelled in Australian Football is AFL’s Black Stars, published by Lothian Books in 1998.

Year of Birth