Kusini Yengi admits speaking about racism remains challenging for many professional players.

But the 23-year-old forward, alongside five other footballers, has made a commitment to using his voice and platform to educate his fellow professionals, fans and the Australian community on the impact of racism in sport and society.

Shining the spotlight on the issue through a series of open and honest conversations with team mates, Yengi and Ben Halloran, Bernie Ibini and Rhys Williams and Allira Toby and Emma Ilijoski have shared their individual experiences of race and racism in their personal lives and in professional sport.

The conversation series is part of the Reflect Forward initiative – a joint movement between racism education company One Love Australia and Australian sports – including football, rugby and cricket.

Yengi, who was racially abused online last season, said that it remained difficult to speak openly about racism, despite having raised his voice previously about the abuse he received online.

“Even myself, I avoid talking about racism sometimes. There’s times when things will be said in the change rooms or said anywhere and I don’t feel comfortable speaking up about it or commenting on what has been said, mainly because at the time I am the minority in the room. I just feel like whatever I say, people won’t be understanding of it.

“A lot of times people don’t want to be involved and talk about racism.”


By using question cards as conversation starters, the conversation series has helped Yengi and his peers have uncomfortable conversations which they hope will stimulate broader debate within Australian sport and society.

“I’m a firm believer that athletes should speak out if they believe in something, but I think at the same time, we’re not really encouraged as athletes to voice issues if they could be potentially controversial,” Halloran said. 

“I think [within] clubs and the sporting world, they want people to have opinions, but only to a certain degree; they don’t want to be challenged too much. I think it’s important for athletes to voice these issues because if they don’t, they will keep getting marginalised and told to just ‘stick to sport’ and ‘don’t speak on these things’, or ‘stay in your lane’.”

The Reflect Forward series has challenged those perceptions, with athletes across the sporting sphere giving players a platform and a voice to share their own views and experiences. 

For A-League Women’s player Allira Toby, an Indigenous Australian, regular conversations and education will go a long way to addressing the issue of racism in Australian society.

“I think we are in a way a very ignorant nation in terms of racism,” Toby said. “I don’t think anyone wants to acknowledge that it’s still happens every day in this country, which is why I think people want to avoid the conversation and I think education is key. If people are educated [on the issue of racism], maybe they will feel more comfortable speaking about this topic. If people are educated and have these conversations, it will go a long way to changing the way people think about racism in this country.”

The Reflect Forward series will form an important anti-racism education course on the Players’ Journey, the platform for the PFA members to engage with the Player Development Program.