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Opinion

Tayla Harris’ bronze statue is more than a statue

Tayla Harris as a Role Model | White Ribbon Australia

On Wednesday 11 September, a bronze statue of AFLW player Tayla Harris was unveiled at Melbourne’s Federation Square. The statue depicts a photo of Harris posted on the Seven’s social media accounts in March this year, where it was swamped by misogynistic online trolls before being controversially removed by the network.

The statue has sparked debate about whether Harris, who has only played 22 games over her career, really deserves it?

There are plenty of outstanding female sportswomen who don’t have their own statues, however a key thing to remember about this statue is that this has nothing to do with Harris’ footballing ability. This statue represents a moment in time where a woman was treated as less than a man in her workplace. It signifies the beginning of a cultural shift in the attitudes towards AFL and AFLW in our community.

This shift towards respectful relationships in the workplace is something we need to encourage and support, rather than continuing to troll Harris online about whether or not she deserves a statue in her honour. Harris said herself in an interview with The Project, that the statue is about more than just achievements on field. “I haven’t necessarily done anything in footy that has warranted a bronze statue — it is absolutely the moment,”. “As the plaque in the ground next to it says ‘more than a kick’,” she said. This statue immortalises that kick and that “moment” as catalyst for cultural change and the way we perceive women in the sporting world.

Contrasting to the various other statues celebrating Australian sporting legends, Rachel Slade, NAB’s Chief Customer Experience Officer, said the statue of Ms Harris represents something distinctive. “Bronze statues typically commemorate the greatness of an individual. This statue symbolises the potential of a generation,” Ms Slade said.

Many have pointed out that Harris is not the first sporting star to have a statue built of them in representation of an iconic moment. St Kilda great, Nicky Winmar was honoured with a statue of the moment he lifted up his shirt and pointed to his skin in the face of racist abuse from Collingwood supporters at Victoria Park in 1993. This statue of Winmar was unveiled at Optus Stadium, in July 2019.

As a young woman who never had the opportunity to play AFL, I hope this statue will stand as a reminder to all the girls out there that they are worthy of the same opportunities as their brothers and male classmates. I am optimistic that it will compel our boys and men to start conversations about women’s place in AFL and how much of an asset they are to our great game. I am hopeful it encourages all the aspiring AFLW players out there to be proud to #KickLikeAGirl.

Author Zoe Alexiades is a White Ribbon Advocate and White Ribbon Youth Advisory Group (YAG) Member.

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