BOMBERS AFL champion Dean Rioli has left his adopted Essendon home to pursue a political career in the Northern Territory.
Since finishing up with the Bombers in 2006, Rioli has remained a central figure in the wider Essendon community, heading up an organisation called Dean Rioli Aboriginal Employment Services [DRAES] and taking on various coaching roles in the Essendon District Football League.
Through DRAES, Rioli has helped place a number of indigenous residents in employment, particularly in the construction industry.
He says that in his role he has educated employers who are taking on indigenous workers for the first time.
Back in Melbourne to watch his nephew Cyril Rioli play his 100th game for Hawthorn last Friday, Rioli said that after 14 years of living in Essendon it was sad to move on.
‘‘I love Melbourne and I always said I’d never move, but something drove me back.
‘‘My dad passed away four months after I got back there — I’m glad I got to spend time with him and now that I’m back there, I just love it back home.’’
Rioli, who grew up in the Tiwi Islands, will stand as an ALP candidate in the 202,000-hectare electorate of Arafura in the Northern Territory general election on August 25.
The seat incorporates much of western Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands, including the towns of Oenpelli, Jabiru and Maningrida.
Between 1992 and 2001 the seat was held by Rioli’s famous uncle Maurice, who died on Christmas Day 2010 and later was granted a state funeral.
Rioli said he always had an interest in social welfare, which grew post-football, and a move into politics had always occupied his thoughts.
‘‘I always thought one day I’d get into it, then the first week I was back in the Northern Territory the chief minister rang and asked me to nominate and I said no. Then the current member asked me a week after that and I said no again.
‘‘Then my family came to me and said, ‘We need someone like you to run’, and that changed my mind.
‘‘I was lucky enough to get pre-selected and definitely said ‘yes’.’’
Rioli said telling his late father Sebastian that he would contest the election was a proud moment.
‘‘Dad was a great leader. He coached footy and has a long history up here. I just let him know a month before he passed and he was very excited and supportive.
‘‘He knew there’s a lot of work to be done up there. At the moment the employment rate is really low in a lot of communities, and young adults’ numeracy and literacy rates aren’t up to scratch — they need to get a lot higher.
‘‘Too many young adults are bored, they need to be engaged. It’s the boredom that leads to crime and other things. There’s a lot of work to be done and a focus on education and employment I think is a good start.
‘‘This feels really personal now because it’s my own backyard.’’