A brief history of the Fitzroy Stars

Fitzroy Stars, the only Aboriginal footy club in Melbourne, are a central institution in the Koori community. Founded in the early 1970s, the Stars were without a league from 1980 and1984. Club president Herbert “Jock” Austin applied for many competitions around Victoria, eventually being accepted into the Youth Christian Workers League. When the YCW folded in 1986, they applied for 36 local competitions and received 36 rejections. So, led by Austin, they formed the Melbourne North Football League in 1989. That too folded in 1994, and so to keep the embers flickering they played one-off games in Aboriginal footy carnivals.

In the early 2000s the Stars continued to apply for footy leagues but, according to Austin’s son and former committee member Troy, received “about half a dozen knock-backs.” Nobody ever explicitly rejected them because they were an Aboriginal club, but Troy Austin remembers many negative stereotypes employed as reasons to exclude them. In 2008, after more than a decade in purgatory, they were finally admitted to the Northern Football League Division Two, and since then the club has slowly been rebuilt from the ground up. The racism is still there, however – in 2013, one game was marred by ongoing racial taunts from the sidelines. “It was always drilled into the players that we had to be better than the opposition,” says Troy, “otherwise they might find another reason to kick us out.”