“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.”
From humble beginnings at Sister Kate’s – a Home for children of Aboriginal descent – Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer rose to become one of Australian Football’s greatest players.
Polly was the first footballer to be named as a Member of the British Empire (MBE) and has dedicated his post-playing career to helping young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation, established in Polly’s name in 1994, was inspired by his vision for young Indigenous people to have every opportunity to succeed in life and follow their dreams.
“I was fortunate in being successful in football. Now I want to put something back into helping Australian people achieve their aspirations.”
Polly revolutionised the role of the ruckman with his attacking skills, particularly his distinctive use of handball, which became the hallmark of his brilliance. He is the captain of the Indigenous Team of the Century and was singled out as one of the twelve inaugural Legends - the highest honour the game can bestow on a player - when the Australian Football Hall of Fame was established in 1996.
"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.”
During his football career spanning over three decades, Polly played 393 senior matches between 1953-71 while playing for the East Perth, West Perth and Geelong Football Clubs. He won 3 Sandover Medals in the WAFL, was named in the Geelong and West Perth’s Teams of the Century, the AFL Team of the Century, the AFL Indigenous Team of the Century (captain), and was his club’s best and fairest player on 10 occasions. In 1996 he was named an inaugural Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend. After nearly 20 extraordinary years of playing football, Polly went on to coach Geelong, East Perth and WA's first State of Origin team.
“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.”
One of Polly’s greatest attributes as a footballer was his unparalleled ability to create openings and opportunities for those around him. Those same qualities extend to his life after football as his dream of helping young Indigenous people to succeed came to life with the creation of the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation.