Footy stars tackle antisemitism

From left: Riley Collier-Dawkins, Aliza Shuvaly, Maverick Weller, Dvir Abramovich and Toby Nankervis cover antisemitic graffiti on a fence at Aliza’s Place Cafe in Chadstone. Photo: Peter Haskin

WHEN Richmond footballer Riley Collier-Dawkins dropped into his local bistro for breakfast last week, he was stunned to hear that racist, antisemitic graffiti had been daubed on the property, and decided to take action.

Aliza’s Place Cafe, an eatery in the suburb of Chadstone run by Aliza Shuvaly, the granddaughter of Russian-Jewish Holocaust survivors, was targeted by antisemitic vandals twice in a week.

After the first daubing, in which vandals scrawled a swastika and the words, “The Holocaust is a lie,” Shuvaly told The AJN she “started to shake” when she saw it, adding, “I cannot ignore this symbol. All my family were Holocaust survivors – my mother’s parents, my husband’s parents – and for me it’s hurting twice.”

Shuvaly was so angered she removed the swastika herself, before council crews removed other scrawls. But two days later, she returned to find a new daubing, “The Holocaust didn’t happen but it should have”, alongside another large swastika. The incidents are being investigated by Victoria Police.

Hearing about the hate attacks, Collier-Dawkins decided this was not on. So he contacted teammates to help him erase the scrawls. 

On Monday, he was joined by Tigers’ midfielder/forward Maverick Weller and ruckman Toby Nankervis, paintbrushes in hand, to turn the ugly messages into hearts and flowers, images of hope and love.

Collier-Dawkins told The AJN, “When I heard what happened I just thought something should be done about it, so I tried to get a few people to help … To know this has happened to someone I know personally is pretty upsetting.”

As he painted over the scrawls, Nankervis said, “It’s pretty confronting, isn’t it?”

Weller said the vandals “will get the message that the Jewish community has a lot of support, and Australians don’t stand for racism or vilification. We stand up, and we look after each other”.

Shuvaly said, “I didn’t expect that, and I was so happy when I heard it. It means people are good.”

Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich said, “I am deeply grateful to the Richmond Football Club for the bold stance they have taken in supporting Aliza and the Jewish community, and for sending the message that harassment and bigotry will never find a home in Australia. This is the mark of true champions.”

PETER KOHN