Leadership

Leading The Fight For Change At The AFL

Tanya Hosch opens up to Drive’s Georgie Gardner about her pursuit to truly make AFL a game for everyone

By Jordaine Chattaway

Leadership

Tanya Hosch opens up to Drive’s Georgie Gardner about her pursuit to truly make AFL a game for everyone

By Jordaine Chattaway

AFL’s General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch has admitted she was overwhelmed by the role and nearly quit after just 18 months because she was ‘exhausted’. 

Ms Hosch is the first indigenous person and just the second woman in AFL executive ranks. “There are always those negative voices out there critiquing whether you’re doing well or not … and I think at that point it all started to get the better of me,” she said.

The candid interview for Drive, a podcast by Future Women and hosted by Nine’s Georgie Gardner gives a rare insight into the challenges for senior women at the highest ranks of an organisation. 

“I’m pretty much an open book; what you see is what you get. I’m told that I’m challenging; I’m told that I’m intimidating, which often bothers me because I feel like I’m quite a warm person and I think I intellectually have a disconnect with that sense but I also understand that I do push boundaries; I do challenge people – but that is my role and if I’m not prepared to do that, then I shouldn’t be taking up that seat at the table.”

Ms Hosch also said AFL had “woeful levels” of Indigenous representation in its off-field roles which was something she was fighting to address. “It doesn’t make sense that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are three percent of the national demographic; typically in the men’s game 10-11 percent of the elite players [are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander] and then woeful levels at every other place in the game,” she said.

 

It doesn’t matter who you are. To belong is critically important.”


Ms Hosch says she would like to see diversity in roles at the club’s executive level and within the media outlets that cover the AFL season. 
“It’s a large industry with a lot of different areas where you can participate and to grow that is definitely a big focus area.”

Here are some highlights from the conversation:

Pushing past fear of failure

“I was a fan of the [AFL] game… but I had no idea what I was walking into. I think I was really naive as to the size of the game and the complexity of the machinery that makes the game run and just how large of a machine it is… I was overwhelmed and was worried about failure, but I also knew that there was a lot of room to grow.”

Almost walking out after 18 months

“It was a real steep learning curve to move from what I knew to working at a very senior level in the industry, not knowing very much at all. I think I was exhausted at that point and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself and then … there are always those negative voices out there critiquing whether you’re doing well or not … and I think at that point it all started to get the better of me. Fortunately, I turned the corner. It’s where issues of persistence and stubbornness can be a great ally.”

AFL’s General Manager of Inclusion and Social Policy, Tanya Hosch

Sexism? We’re all sick of it

“Men are given latitude around all sorts of behaviors that women are not and I’m not sure when that will change, but I certainly do feel that there is a growing impatience amongst many, many women around those double standards. The more we as women amplify each other, and back each other in relation to those things, the less of an issue it will become over time. But I feel like it’s like talking about racism: none of these things just get solved or changed overnight. Continuing to call them out can be really exhausting and that’s why we’ve got to share the work.”

Inclusion is just the starting point

“I had some say over what my title was and I chose inclusion over diversity because I think inclusion is a stronger word. I guess I see that inclusion is where you start and belonging is what you want to see at the end… belonging is important to all of us. It doesn’t matter who you are. To belong is critically important.”

Adversity can bring clarity

“Trying to reconcile my own experience as a woman of color, in a world that can be challenged by both of those things, and understanding that intersectionality and how that impacts your life experience and how it colours your worldview, it has driven me down the path that I’m on now. It means that I’m doing things I’m passionate about.”

Image credit: Getty Images/ Don Arnold. People are seen taking pictures of a mural of former Sydney Swans AFL player Adam Goodes. June, 2020 in Sydney, Australia

How one encounter can forge a future

“I feel like [activism] crept up on me. I distinctly remember being 18 years old walking down the street somewhere [and] I had just had a frustrating experience having a conversation with someone that got a bit heated about racial justice and just thinking to myself, It’s more important to do what’s right than it is to be popular, and I feel like I’ve probably been making myself unpopular ever since. From that point on, I felt like this is where I need to be.”

The pain of watching the Adam Goodes documentaries

“I felt that the many errors of that time and missed opportunities were very, very clear… every time I watched them, I saw something different. The lost opportunity, the cost of this to Adam, to Adam’s family, to Adam’s community, to his friends… the lost opportunity to the country to take that moment and harness it. The lack of political leadership through that… I felt so sure that I had to try and help the whole sector and also provide some leadership to the nation through the AFL, to try and do everything we can to make sure that that could never happen to another person again.”

Drive hosted by Georgie Gardner is out each Wednesday. Listen to Tanya’s episode here.