‘We’ve lost a towering figure’: Farmer’s legacy will be his selfless work with Aboriginal children

Australia has lost a “towering figure” who not only revolutionised Australian football but changed the lives of a generation of Aboriginal children.

Graham "Polly" Farmer once lamented there were “a lot of good jobs” in Australia but not many Aboriginal people filling those roles. So it was through this selfless desire to give Aboriginal children a chance to achieve their dreams and aspirations that his foundation was established.

Polly Farmer's quiet work post-AFL has changed the lives of thousands of Aboriginal children.

Polly Farmer's quiet work post-AFL has changed the lives of thousands of Aboriginal children. Credit:Tony Ashby

Farmer wanted to give back to his people and open doors to opportunities while breaking down barriers Aboriginal children faced. And he wanted to do this through education.

“Over the years, about a third of our kids have gone to uni, a third into trade and a third into a job,” said Fred Chaney, the co-founder of the Graham “Polly” Farmer Foundation.


“We hope to do more and better in the future.”

Farmers legacy in football is well-known and lauded. But its his post-AFL career, where hes quietly worked with thousands of Aboriginal children, that will leave a big mark on this country.

He not only changed the life of one generation, but helped set the course for generations of Aboriginal children to come. The foundation has 1800 students in its program this year, with at least 200 graduating each year over the past decade, and “many more hundreds” in years seven to 11.

“Clinton Walker was in our first group of Aboriginal children,” Mr Chaney said. “He finished Year 12, he became a diesel mechanic, and held a senior role at Rio Tinto.

“While he was at Rio Tinto, he was given the national award for Aboriginal employee of the year. And I remember hearing years ago that Clintons children, in a predominantly white school in Karratha each came top of their school year.”

Thats what Farmer wanted to achieve – to give a generation of Aboriginal children a chance so they can, in turn, give their own children a chance.

“Clintons story captures the spirit of what the foundation tries to do,” Mr Chaney said.

“We've lost a towering figure in a whole lot of ways – he changed football and he thought about the future of Aboriginal people.”

Farmer has been remembered as a game-changer – a true leader on and off the field.

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