Graham "Polly" Farmer

Education is the key for Aboriginal people to take their rightful place in modern Australian society. Unless we rectify the imbalance in opportunities currently available, young Aboriginal people will continue to be frustrated and unable to develop their talents to make their rightful contribution to the economy and society… and we will all be poorer for that.

Graham “Polly” Farmer was an Australian rules football champion. He is one of the greatest footballers to have played the game and is inducted as an inaugural Legend in the Australian Football Hall of Fame. Polly’s career of almost 400 games from 1953 to 1971 included playing with the East Perth, West Perth and Geelong Football Clubs and representing both Western Australia and Victoria.

He won the best and fairest player award for his clubs 10 times, was the best player in the WA Football League 3 times and played in six winning premiership teams.  Polly was the first Australian footballer to be awarded a Member of the British Empire (MBE).

Polly is best known for his skill and talents. Whilst he was a ruckman, he wasn’t especially tall so he also used his athletic ability and thinking about how the game is played. Polly is credited as being responsible for changing how handball is used in the game. 

"Every time I went out onto the football field I set my mind to be the best on the ground and win the game….That is how I prepared myself.”

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When I lined up on the MCG to kick a goal, they didn’t pull the goal posts apart to make it easier to kick a goal; so if you want to see an Aboriginal person get to the MCG or to get a degree from university, the standards have to be the same for everyone – black and white.

Polly was a Noongar man, born in the south west of Western Australia in 1935. His journey to success wasn’t always easy and he faced his challenges. However, he made the most of his upbringing and was grateful to those who helped him along the way.

As well as his success on the football field, perhaps his greatest achievement setting up the ‘Polly Farmer Foundation’ in 1994.

"I was fortunate in being successful in football. Now I want to put something back into helping Australian people achieve their aspirations.”

 The Foundation has grown from the Gumala Mirnuwarni  “coming together to learn” program of 23 students in Karratha in 1997 to over 2500 students participating annually in 57 primary and high school programs around Australia.

Whilst Polly’s contribution to football helped to change the game, his Foundation has changed the lives of thousands of young Indigenous Australians through being provided opportunities and support to succeed at school and pursue their chosen careers, talents and interests.

 

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Polly is a trailblazer, a leader and an inspiration. He has left an enduring legacy both on the field and off the field.