Making a mark in AFL and life: BA alum Emma Race

Emma Race
Emma Race

Arts alum Emma Race, producer and host of the groundbreaking Outer Sanctum Podcast shares what the freedom of an Arts degree has meant for her life. Emma’s career has included roles as a talent manager, broadcaster and producer spanning across 3RRR, Nova, Today FM, ABC 774, C31, Network Ten and Network Seven.

The Outer Sanctum Podcast has started a partnership with ABC Podcasts for the 2017 AFL Season, after The Age digital platforms featured it over the entire first season of AFLW this year. Made up of six passionate female footy fans, the Outer Sanctum Podcast ignited national debate in their first year on air when they called to attention derogatory comments about The Age‘s chief football writer Caroline Wilson. The subsequent outrage prompted the villifiers to apologise and Holden moving a greater part of its funding for Collingwood towards women’s football and community initiatives. Emma states:

We have received lots of feedback from listeners who had felt ostracised by footy and who now feel welcomed back to the game because of our podcast. […] Our hope is that in some small way our chat around these themes will make footy a safe and inclusive place for everyone.

From footballer Dennis Armfield’s work with rehabilitation centre Odyssey House Victoria  to ‘carpool karaoke with coaches and coffee with Michelle Cowan’, the six behind the Outer Sanctum focus on rarely heard stories around AFL and debate social issues such as stereotyping, inclusion and privilege around the game. And, as Emma says there’s also, ‘genuine footy chat and a lot about our superstitions and crazy fan behaviour’.

How did it all begin with the Outer Sanctum Podcast?

We created the Outer Sanctum Podcast because we didn’t hear anyone talking about AFL the way we did and we thought, maybe, we might find a few like-minded types. Traditional media offers up banks of male teams who talk footy. With the exception of The Age, who have several female footy journalists, there is very little diversity within commentary teams covering the game.

What we know is that most men and women report on the game and dissect the game differently. We report less about stats and facts and more about the stories around the game. 

We started the podcast at the beginning of the 2016 AFL season at my sister’s kitchen table. At that point the AFLW was just a glint in [AFL CEO] Gillion McLachlan’s eye; now it’s had its first grand final at Metricon Stadium in March, a huge success drawing 15,610 fans. The influx of women to the game at a professional level has certainly been an exciting addition to the code. We talk about this and AFLW but we also bring in guests and chat about the larger culture around AFL.

The Outer Sanctum Podcast
The Outer Sanctum Podcast

What’s next on the plate for the Outer Sanctum Podcast?

Being picked up by the ABC was a real boost of encouragement for us, it certainly helps to broaden our reach. Our hope is to integrate a lot more stories from around Australia. We are six Victorians who are all long-time Hawks supporters, so we understand the need to be inclusive of stories from over the fence. We ran an event last year called a Kick and Coffee which was kind of like Auskick for women. It was a really emotional event with lots of women telling us how they had always wanted to play but society hadn’t enabled that. Our hope is to take the Kick and Coffee around Australia and to regional areas while gathering more stories for the podcast. 

What impact do you hope it will achieve? 

We never set out to effect social change but we have received lots of feedback from listeners who had felt ostracised by footy and who now feel welcomed back to the game because of our podcast. Our focus with each episode is to tell stories of inclusion and diversity.

Is there anything you take from your time at Monash into your current work? 

The people I met at Monash are a re-occurring source of inspiration and support. If you are true to yourself and allow yourself to be drawn to areas of interest you will meet your tribe. Despite making no new friends until the middle of first year, I eventually met my tribe.

I have collaborated and worked alongside many of them throughout my life. 

You have an impressive career. What were your early years like after graduating, then how did you arrive at Outer Sanctum? 

As most Arts graduates would know, you don’t leave with one clear career path. If you are a glass half full person, the belief is that you graduate with MANY career paths. I believe strongly in reverse engineering and many of my career milestones were a result of pinpointing where I wanted to be and working backwards. I always wanted to work in roles where creativity and media combined.

In the mid 90s when I graduated, media roles were restricted to print, radio and screen. I started with a role in publishing at Fairfax then moved to Network Seven and on to a dozen independent television production companies. I would take any job I could get and would learn as much as I could and meet as many people as I could. It took at least ten years of this approach to hone in on a really specific area of interest. I went on to work in radio and television as a presenter and producer before I took on roles at Film Victoria and eventually as a talent manager.

During my years having children, media platforms changed and podcasting and social media became available ways for small producers to get their products seen and heard. During maternity leave I took courses in digital media and podcasting. When my footy talking lady mates suggested we should do a podcast I had the knowledge and skills to make it happen.  

What career advice would you give students or new grads?

The workforce has changed so much in the last decade. Technology has enabled me to create the job of my dreams. Today’s graduates have opportunity at their fingertips to be masters of their destiny. Without wanting to sound predictable I would say that if you are lucky enough to have a passion then look for ways to make that your career.  

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