A GROUP of First Nations families say they will take part in an independent investigation into allegations of racism at Hawthorn on the basis the AFL commissions a separate independent review of the league's "own failings".
An independent panel is currently investigating allegations of mistreatment of First Nations players and their families at Hawthorn between 2008 and 2016. The allegations surfaced in September after an external review was commissioned by the Hawks, with the claims subsequently published by the ABC.
In a joint open letter through their lawyers on Friday, the families wrote they want to "tell our truths" in a "culturally safe environment".
But they added they want the AFL to take a broader review beyond the Hawthorn investigation.
"We have decided to participate in the AFL Independent Investigation on the basis that the AFL is also committed to independently look at its own failings, and promises to all First Nations families it will do better as a result," the letter reads.
"We do want to tell our truths to a panel of independent investigators in a culturally safe environment.
"But the issue of racism in the AFL cannot be dealt with by a narrowly targeted investigation on a club-by-club, or crisis-by-crisis, basis.
"We want the AFL to take a good hard look at itself and how it has dealt with racism in the past.
"Not because we want to trawl over 100 years of neglect, or conduct a witch-hunt or to bring legal claims, but because we want the AFL to be a safer place for our children."
Former Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, his then assistant Chris Fagan and player development manager Jason Burt have all strongly denied any wrongdoing having been named in the ABC report in September.
Fagan returned to work at Brisbane last week having taken a leave of absence, while Clarkson officially commenced his new role at North Melbourne on Wednesday.
The statement from the families on Friday comes after another woman, known as 'Amy', said through her lawyers on Wednesday that she would not take part in the independent investigation as she felt the process was unsafe.
In response to Amy's statement, the AFL acknowledged her experiences and said it was important the independent review allowed all parties to be heard and for natural justice to be served.
"We acknowledge the pain, trauma and grief of the experience from “Amy” in the statement and it reinforces how serious these allegations are, and how important it is that the AFL treat them appropriately while ensuring a formal process that provides the opportunity to bring their experiences direct to the Independent Review in a supportive and respectful process to those impacted, and natural justice to those people against whom allegations of misconduct have been made," a statement read.
"As previously stated, the matter was brought to the AFL by the Hawthorn Football Club along with the consultant that undertook the review, and given the seriousness of the allegations, it was important to set up an independent external investigation that provides a clear and safe process to investigate the matters.
"The AFL can only investigate the matter under AFL Rules, as that is the only jurisdiction we have the ability to determine and - as we have said previously – our process doesn't stop any impacted person from taking separate legal action or seeking redress in another forum or jurisdiction.
"As part of the detailed consultation process preceding the commencement of the investigation, proposed terms of reference were sent to the lawyers representing the potential participants and we took into consideration all their comments and concerns. Ultimately there needs to be balance of considerations (including cultural safety and fairness) and different perspectives and no individual had all their requests met.
"While the AFL still has not been informed of the identities of the persons / families who have recalled their accounts as part of the Hawthorn Football Club review, or with the journalist who published those accounts, the independent panel will continue to work with the legal representatives each of the parties has retained."