Western Bulldogs leader Jason Johannisen has lent his voice to the anti-racism sentiment currently dominating world headlines.
Johannisen was born in Johannesburg in South Africa in the early 90s, as the unsettling Apartheid period was still a big part of the country’s consciousness.
His parents eventually sought a more peaceful upbringing for their kids, relocating the family to Australia when he was seven years of age.
Since arriving at the Bulldogs, ‘JJ’ has grown in his leadership abilities, becoming heavily involved in the impactful programs run by the Club’s Community Foundation, and being an AFL multicultural ambassador.
He has been a key part of the Foundation’s GOAL Program, which has succeeded in assisting young African Australians.
At Thursday’s main training session at VU Whitten Oval, players made their own statement in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement both overseas and in Australia, wearing a combination of the Club’s recent Indigenous guernseys, and the specially-designed multicultural guernsey they wore in 2017.
Johannisen’s message is simple. He, like many others, believe education is key to creating an understanding about the past, and a more learned view about how to move forward.
In a heart-felt statement posted on his social media, he wrote:
Being born in South Africa, I have witnessed first-hand what my family endured through the Apartheid. People in the country were forced to live in segregation, with housing and employment opportunities dictated by race.
Although for the majority of my life I have grown up in Australia and had the privilege to chase my dream, I often steered away from the topic of racism because I was afraid of saying the wrong thing. If you know me, you know I rarely take anything to heart and am pretty relaxed. I’ve never personally felt like a victim of racism, which is also why I’ve not spoken up.
But I’m done doing nothing. I want to fight for what is right! Enlightened by recent events, I have asked myself how I can help. Right now, I feel like the best thing to do is educate myself on these issues. All I ask for you to do is simply, with an open heart, just listen and understand what people of colour have been through. Empathise and continue to stand with us and this movement as we fight for change. My life matters. Indigenous Australian lives matter. Black lives matter.