In just over 24 hours, a new class of Australians of the Year will be announced. Flying the flag for NSW is former Socceroo, broadcaster and human rights advocate Craig Foster AM (Member of the Order of Australia).
In recent years, Craig has become well known for his advocacy work with refugees and asylum seekers, pushing both sides of government for policy reform and better treatment of refugees. In 2021, he was instrumental in the evacuation of around 100 Afghan athletes out of Kabul on an Australian evacuation flight, including the entire Afghan women’s national football team.
Beginnings of advocacy
Craig has always had a heart for social justice, even as a young soccer player.
“If there were people in the team that needed home help, I was always willing to do something,” Craig told Hope Drive.
As a professional player, Craig migrated naturally towards the players’ association, eventually becoming the chairperson – fighting for better conditions for players.
“Back in the 80s, the National Soccer League had very poor conditions,” Craig said.
“Contracts could be ripped up and players had no medical support, so careers could be completely ended through injury.”
Craig was also instrumental in the 2019 landmark pay agreement from the Football Federation to equalise pay and conditions across the Socceroos and Matildas – a fight which took decades.
“How we treat refugees and asylum seekers here in Australia… It’s one of the greatest injustices in our society,” – Craig Foster, former Socceroo
A natural evolution
As a fierce advocate for players, Craig had no troubles putting his energy behind other causes. He has long advocated for First Nations people, homelessness, anti-racism and domestic violence prevention. However, in recent years, Craig has become one of Australia’s loudest voices in the fight for better treatment refugees and asylum seekers in Australia – which he credits to the game of football.
“Football is a global game, it makes us global citizens,” Craig said.
“I played against 29 countries in my career… and many of those players, including my own teammates, were refugees.
“So you become very interested with how we treat refugees and asylum seekers here in Australia.
“It’s one of the greatest injustices in our society.”
Standing tall, despite the cost
Craig Foster is known for his fearlessness. He consistently uses his large platform to give a voice to marginalised communities – and faces backlash for it every day. However, he believes that is a small sacrifice to pay.
“Life is short and we have an obligation to help other people,” – Craig Foster, former Socceroo
Craig has also made professional sacrifices as a result of his advocacy, recently having to move on from government-broadcaster SBS, due largely to his criticism of the Australian Government in treatment of refugees.
“There is often a price to pay, but in the end this is what’s life’s about,” he said.
“Life is short and we have an obligation to help other people.
“If you are courageous enough to take that first step, more people will follow you.”
Listen to Craig’s full interview on Hope Drive in the player above.
The Australian of the Year Awards will be held on Wednesday 25 January at 7.30pm on ABC and ABC iView. For more information, visit the Australian of the Year website.
Feature image: Craig Foster Facebook / “Lunch at Old Parliament House to meet National Australia Council Directors, other current and former recipients and hear from the great Dylan Alcott about his experiences in 2022. Having a fantastic time getting to know the other recipients, sharing experiences and learning from them.”