Getting around to Reconciliation: O’Sullivan Beach/Lonsdale Football Club

With the AFL and SANFL Seasons just having finished, it’s the perfect time to hear a feel-good story from one of the local South Australian football leagues.

This one comes in the form of an interview with Anthony Bernhardt, Aboriginal Outreach Worker with Sonder, and veteran of the O’Sullivan Beach/Lonsdale Football Club. A club that was formed after a merger between the O’Sullivan Beach Lions (est. 1975) and the Mawson/Lonsdale Bears (est. 1977) in 2002.  

Anthony is currently on the clubs committee and have been involved with the club on and off since 1984. 

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Between the two clubs lies a winning history of twenty-five premierships and has provided ongoing support for Southern Indigenous programs and projects in its local area such as the Southern Nunga Tag event, Southern Deadly Fun run series and the annual Reconciliation week events in the south. 

Currently 30%-40% of the OSBLFC playing list identify as First Nation and with strong no tolerance level stance towards any form of racism, it was only natural for the club to want to find a way to bring everyone together as one. 

However, racism was still present, and the club is determined to eliminate racism from their club and from the game.

In achieving this the club asked players, coaches, committee, and members “What is Important to you”, a question that led to the organization to “look at our club values.” 

In January 2021 the club came together to workshop its values and mission statement so that it could move forward as a collective. During the workshop the club identified that they needed to acknowledge the First Nations people not just within the club but in the community. 

The club  consulted with First Nation and non-First Nation members, Southern Elders and community members, and using resources from Reconciliation SA’s own website, suddenly the momentum for a Reconciliation Round was growing.  

With the date set for the 5th of June 2021, the club and community were excited to 'kick' things off. The opening ceremony brought both clubs and officials together on the oval who were greeted to country by Karl Telfer, senior Kaurna Man.

Anthony says, it was extremely well received. It was extremely moving and has been described as a goosebump moment by all.” 

The day also included an Elder’s luncheon, sponsored by Sonder, and Reconciliation Medals for the best players of both teams, designed by Doug Clinch Snr.  

The round proved to be a resounding success. The sponsors, players and community members were united on that day to be able to hear, see, feel and contribute towards:

‘building respectful relationships between First Nations people and the wider Australian community to enable us to work together to close the gaps, and to achieve a shared sense of fairness and justice’

Through a grassroots football match that united all in common cause.

The Reconciliation round for 2021 at OSBLFC is said to be the building block to progress the event as a permanent feature at the OSBLFC for the Reconciliation Round. 

As for the future of the round, Anthony says,

“Our goal with Reconciliation Round is to grow it from year to year. We aim to educate our community and hope to inspire others to do the same at all levels including sport.” 

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Anthony also hopes that together, the club can

“educate our members and our community on reconciliation and what reconciliation looks like”, and believes that “community sport, especially football, provides a great opportunity to start conversations on a grassroots level” but most of all, hopes to “provide a culturally safe environment for all the community and to allow growth within our club.” 

As part of his role with the club, Anthony wrote a report on the entire event, which can be read here.