Court dismisses racial discrimination case against de Castella
By Michael Inman
Sydney Morning Herald
April 29, 2013
In training: Rob de Castella, left, with the Indigenous Marathon Project team before a training run in New York's Central Park.
Photo: Trevor Collens
A coach who claimed he was sacked from a volunteer position because he was white has had his claim of racial discrimination against Robert de Castella dismissed.
William John Bell had been engaged as a coach to marathon runners as part of Mr de Castella's Indigenous Marathon Project, which trained indigenous athletes to run in the New York marathon, from April 2009 to November 2010. The project was covered by a film crew creating a documentary Running to America.
Mr Bell was not paid for his work, but was reimbursed expenses and provided a laptop computer and mobile phone.
The member of the Central Australia Desert Foundation League of Champion Sports Hall of Fame was dropped the program in 2010 after a dispute with Mr de Castella
Mr Bell brought the action against the marathon champion in the ACT's Civil and Administrative Tribunal, claiming he was discriminated against on the basis of race, profession and political conviction.
In submissions to the tribunal, Mr Bell alleged he was sacked because he was non-indigenous and believed that the Aboriginal flag should be on display whenever indigenous athletes were involved.
The pair's relationship soured after Mr de Castella ignored Mr Bell's advice and disciplined a runner while the film crew recorded.
The row deepened when Mr Bell sent a number of emails, which contained offensive and abusive language.
One email referred to the athletes as “me lovely little Abbadigine affletes of the desert” and mentioned the “nebber nebber future”.
Mr de Castella terminated Mr Bell's services in August 2010 but allowed him to continue working with the athletes until November so as not to interrupt preparations for the New York marathon.
Upon returning to Australia, Mr de Castella offered Mr Bell $4942 volunteer allowance for his involvement in the project, but the offer of payment lapsed when Mr Bell did not sign the document.
In a decision published on Monday, the tribunal found Mr de Castella had no case to answer and dismissed the proceedings.
“The relationship between the applicant and Mr de Castella had deteriorated and that he had formed the view that the conduct of Mr Bell was causing disruption to the athletes training and damaging the project overall,” the decision said.
“In such circumstances he would be entitled to terminate the services of a volunteer coach.
“The tribunal is not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the actions taken by Mr de Castella terminating the applicant s engagement with the marathon project was because of the applicant s race or profession.”