In December 2023, the Sanifect team gathered at Hawthorn Football Clubat Bunjil Bagora for a unique training experience; an Indigenous Cultural Awareness session with Jamie Bennell, Indigenous Player Development Manager & Head of Indigenous Affairs.

As a longtime sponsor of Hawthorn Football Club, it was in a meeting in 2020 that we started a unique relationship with the club with one question: What could we do to make real change with the club?

A legacy, for better want of a word, Sanifect Founders and Directors, Tom Vasilevski and Nicholas Markov, agreed on a new partnership to sponsor the renaming of Waverly Park to Bunjil Bagora. This name comes of the Wurundjeri Woiwurrung language the traditional owners of the land on which (formerly) Waverly Park sits and is gifted by Senior Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Joy Murphy. You can read more about it on our community page.

Due to lockdowns and the pandemic, it wasn’t until 2023 that we were able to properly reconvene with the Club to ask the next pertinent question: What next?

It was important to ask Jamie this question and his first response was to start with Indigenous Cultural Awareness training for the team, to start with the foundations of what reconciliation is for our indigenous people and to understand the history.

So, we gathered as team, some more aware than others of the presentation we were about to hear.

We must thank Jamie for his grace and professionalism as an indigenous man for his pragmatism in sharing the history – the good, bad and ugly. These are difficult stories to hear and conversations to have, but, as Jamie said, it’s not about attributing blame. It’s about gaining an understanding and empathy of our First Nation’s people and the systems they have to fight every day of their lives; the generational trauma that exists and that it’s not easy to “just move on”.

He shared that change starts with us (non-indigenous people of Australia) and that we all need to question the past to understand the future.

“I was shocked to learn much of the history. I had no idea the extent of devastation for our indigenous communities, and that it’s our recent past,” admitted Tom. “Hearing it all together and from an indigenous lived experience perspective was extremely powerful.”

It was also interesting to hear Jamie’s perspective on the simple acts – “gestures” – having huge impact. When asked if acknowledging country in a website matters to him, he said yes. He made the point to say he initiated a sign in the reception area lift and that it was important to him to see this each day.

That the renaming of Wavely Park to Bunjil Bagora was important to him.

The completion of the session begged the (same) question: What next?

Having our core team members on board is great, but our work as a business cannot end here – we must continue to work on bridging the gap in respect and understanding between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

From here, the Sanifect Board will reflect on a Reconciliation Action Plan. We thank Jamie for the offer to assist with this.

But, most importantly, we don’t believe in the training and our new understanding to be a checklist item. We are building a business and team who care about what we say and do what we say, and reconciliation is part of our business vision.

Beyond Jamie, we thank the team at Hawthorn Football Club for facilitating this unique opportunity, especially Blake, Emme, Izzy and Dan.