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AFL appoints its first Indigenous commissioner

History: Helen Milroy has joined the AFL commission.

History: Helen Milroy has joined the AFL commission.Credit:Warren Clarke

The AFL has made history by appointing Professor Helen Milroy as the first ever Indigenous member of the AFL Commission.

Milroy also becomes the third woman on the AFL's governing body.

She is a descendant of the Palkyu people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia, a former GP and still works as a child and adolescent psychiatrist. Milroy's work and experience in mental health – including Indigenous and child health – was instrumental in her being chosen ahead of, what sources said, was an exceptional field of candidates.

The AFL had earmarked the next commissioner to be an Indigenous person, recognising the need for someone of that background and experience.

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Her appointment is timely on two fronts. Firstly, that it was time for an Indigenous voice on the Commission. And secondly, her background as a psychiatrist at a time that player welfare and mental health becomes arguably the greatest issue facing the modern footballer.

Milroy has previously served on the AFL's Indigenous Advisory Committee.

Former Sydney Swans champion Adam Goodes, long viewed as a potential commissioner, was not interested in putting his name forward for the position.

Three club presidents were involved in the process of selecting Professor Milroy – Tony Shepherd of GWS, Glen Bartlett of Melbourne and Richmond's Peggy O'Neal.

Milroy joins Gabrielle Trainor and Major General Simone Wilkie as women on the AFL Commission.

"I am extremely pleased that Professor Milroy is joining the Commission," AFL chairman Richard Goyder said.

"Helen brings the highest level of clinical and policy experience in the important areas of health, mental health and Indigenous affairs to the game's governing body."

Jake Niall is a senior sports writer at 'The Age' specialising mainly in coverage of the AFL. He writes a weekly column for 'The Sunday Age' and has been on staff with since 1995. Jake, who combines original news with commentary, match-based writing, features and analysis, has won a number of awards, including the Alf Brown award for the best performer in AFL media in 2012

Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.

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