The Collingwood Football Club has appointed Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt AO to head an independent review of the environment at the club between 2005-2014 following accounts of racism made by Heritier Lumumba.

Professor Behrendt was today appointed by the Collingwood Integrity Committee (IC) that has been charged by the Collingwood board with the task of examining the period from which the accounts stem.

The committee had previously flagged its intent to source external expertise for the task.

Professor Behrendt and a team of researchers will revisit the time in which Heritier played at Collingwood, specifically his experiences as he and other former players have recently described them and the organisational culture of the club in the day.

The 2010 premiership defender played 199 matches for Collingwood between 2005-2014.

Professor Behrendt’s findings will be delivered to the IC. Collingwood directors Jodie Sizer and Peter Murphy and club chief executive Mark Anderson sit on the IC. Murphy is chair.

“It has become increasingly clear that in Heritier’s time we were unable to understand his experience; see and hear what he saw and heard. This lack of cultural safety that he and others have recently spoken of is a matter of great concern,” Murphy said.

“We are seeking to understand these experiences of racism and to ensure they have no place in the current Collingwood environment,” Murphy said.

“We anticipate that Larissa Behrendt’s work will result in a full and frank account of these experiences and produce a road-map to inform Collingwood’s future.”

Professor Behrendt is a Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman and Director of Research at the Jumbunna Institute of Indigenous Education and Research at the University of Technology, Sydney.

A distinguished barrister, researcher, writer and filmmaker, Professor Behrendt AO is a member of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and a founding member of the Australian Academy of Law. She chaired the federal government’s major review into Indigneous higher education in 2011.

Her written works range from Indigenous legal issues to fiction, for which she has won several awards. She is host of the Speaking Out program on the ABC and an award-winning documentary film director with a focus on telling the stories of Indigenous Australians.

In 2009, Professor Behrendt was named NAIDOC Person of the Year and in 2020 was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for her service to the law, Indigenous education and the arts.

Sizer, a founding partner and co-ceo of PricewaterhouseCoopers Indigenous Consulting and a Djab Wurrung/Gunditjmara woman, added: “We want to listen, learn and act. We must look at this as an opportunity to evolve. 

“I am certain that Larissa and her team will help us grasp this opportunity and allow Collingwood to further develop as a culturally safe environment in which difference and diversity is celebrated.”

In order for the work of Professor Behrendt and the IC to be conducted with rigour and respect for all who may be involved, neither Collingwood nor Professor Behrendt will be making further comment until the inquiry is concluded.