Grant Hansen grew up in the western suburbs barracking for the Bulldogs. His father George was a one-eyed Bulldog who worked in pubs and had "the gift of the gab". His mother Ruth was a one-eyed Bulldog who taught her son "You make your path in life. Grant is a proud Taungurung man from his Franklins family in Yea. Grant speaks to Gman on Big Brekkie...a station that he is the Chairman off. To speak to Ruth, now 80, is to meet a mother with a luminous belief in her son. "It was my dream for Grant to be educated," she says. He was at Essendon Grammar when his parents split; after that, he went to Kealba High School. He was talented - good at footy and cricket and musical as well. He played under-17s with the Bulldogs. At 15, he was invited to train with their under-19s. When Footscray didn't recruit him, he was invited to train with Essendon. After six weeks of pre-season training he still hadn't seen a ball and thought, "That's it". He always knew he was going to do something with his life.
He'd first been aware of his skin colour in primary school. An Indian kid joined their class. The teacher put the Indian kid beside Hansen and instinctively he understood why – they were the same colour. When he was 12 a kid at Essendon Grammar called him nigger and it hurt. After the TV drama Roots appeared, he got called Kunta Kinte. There were other names as well but he was good at sport and part of him said it didn't matter what they called him – he'd show them who was better out on the sports field. "I don't know if I was cocky," he says. "I was confident." At 28, he was captain-coach of the Kealba Green Gully Cricket Club.
By then, he'd become interested in politics. During his teens, he'd attended land rights rallies. He always remembers hearing black radical Gary Foley say, "There's no point hating. There's not enough of us." By then he was also making steps in his music career as a guitarist with the Aboriginal band Blackfire. Blackfire toured China; they also toured Australia with Yothu Yindi. Hansen was adopted into the Yolngu clan by Yothu Yindi's lead singer, Dr Yunupingu. Hansen lists him as a major influence. "He was a really smart traditional man. He was a school principal. He had balanced views on things in Australia." Grant has always enjoyed getting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people together. "At the end of the day," he says, "both cultures are running through me. "Marngrook Footy Show star Leila Gurruwiwi is a Yolngu woman and a niece of Dr Yunupingu. When she was 18 and studying for her VCE, she came to Melbourne and lived with Hansen.
Twelve months later, he told her he was starting an indigenous footy TV show and wanted her to be in it. Leila recalls him saying, "I want you to do the show. It'll be good for you. You'll be fine." Leila says, "Grant lives in both worlds, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. He can talk to people in both worlds and give the perspective of each to the other."
Grant is a person who says what's on his mind and that doesn't always make him friends. He was in charge of the Songlines Aboriginal Music Corporation for 10 years. He remembers the Sunday morning he was watching World of Sport and revolted at the thought there wasn't one Aboriginal commentator in the AFL, not on TV or radio, not in the print media. So from there Marngrook was born.
Check out the interview with Gman!