Jade North wishes society was like sport.
"Sport teaches you to come together and be as one," the former Newcastle Jets captain said.
"Once we can recognise that, I think we can all move together peacefully."
North, 38, is an Indigenous man originally from Taree and the Biripi people.
He's followed the Black Lives Matter movement, including the protests in Newcastle.
"It was great to see people from all different backgrounds supporting Black Lives Matter [in Newcastle]," he said.
"I think we've all got to come together and unite as one because we're all Australian."
North said awareness of the past was important, along with moving towards a better place.
"We do live in today's society as well, which is something that I've learnt along the way and had to adapt to," he said.
"Everyone has to realise the history that did happen a long time ago. We have to take that in our stride and be better today."
He believes people should be "open minded and respect where you're from and who you are".
His personal experience of racism has been profound.
"Growing up being Indigenous, sometimes you didn't fit in. At times, people looked down on you. I used to hear racial remarks at school or sitting on buses, whatever it may be," he said.
"I don't blame those sorts of people. I just think it's a lack of education. No one is born in this world to be racist. I think it's a taught thing, unfortunately.
"It's just a matter of getting it out there and teaching people. We all bleed the same colour, we're all human."
When humanity figures this out, he believes we can go a long way towards "everyone coming together".
"I love my community, where I'm from and people in general. I have friends from all different backgrounds."
His advice on dealing with racism and prejudice is to "call it out in an educated way" where possible.
"The more times it can be said and dealt with in the right manner, I think people will respect that," he said.
He suggests approaching individuals and saying, "Hey, that's wrong" or "That's not right".
Some have an understandable fear about calling out racism in difficult circumstances.
"Sometimes it might not be the right place to call people out. You can't do it when you're under threat," he said.
North is against the use of anger to call out racism.
"Anger is like the enemy. Anger can turn into violence," he said.
"You've got to be proud of who you are inside and don't let those things from outside affect you. I guess that's what I've been able to do over the years.
"It might be harder for younger people. But the younger the better to learn to call it out at the right time. That's important."
North, who now lives in Brisbane with his wife and three kids, has a long and decorated list of achievements.
He became the first Indigenous captain of the Socceroos and played 41 times for the senior national team. He is a two-times Olympian and two-times A-League championship winner.
After playing for the Newcastle Jets from 2005 to 2008, he had stints in South Korea, Norway and Japan before finishing his top-level professional career with Brisbane Roar in 2018.
Having played professionally for 20 years, he uses his profile to help good causes for Indigenous people.
"It was always a platform for me to show where I'm from and how proud I am as an Indigenous person in the community, but as a sportsperson as well," he said.
He's continuing this role as an ambassador for the charity GIVIT and its national Indigenous support program.
The program helps improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from "Arnhem Land to Sydney".
He also founded Kickin' with a Cuz, a football program that aims to help disadvantaged Indigenous children make better life choices.
North still plays football. This season, he's with Eastern Suburbs FC in Queensland's Premier League.
Triumph and Despair
North considers Newcastle home.
"I love Newcastle. I'm a Taree boy, so it's pretty much my home anyway," he said.
"I was proud to be associated with Newcastle and to play for what was my home team growing up. I have great memories there."
He looks back fondly on the Jets' 2008 grand final victory, defeating arch rival Central Coast Mariners 1-0.
"It was an amazing achievement from everyone as a whole - from the kitman to the youngest player in the squad. It was a great experience," North said.
"We had fantastic players in that side, but it was also about team unity. We had a strong bond.
"All the boys were hanging out together and we shared one common thing - the drive for success."
North said people tended to "write off" the Jets, but the fans knew "exactly how good we were".
"When we got that momentum, the fans were just unbelievable - memories I'll never forget," he said.
There was, however, a darker side to North's life during the season that the Jets won the title.
He was living with depression and anxiety. He's open to speaking about his experience to raise awareness about mental health.
The illness came on with numerous changes in his life.
His wife Maree was pregnant with their first son, Zane. He was playing for the Socceroos in World Cup qualifiers with the likes of Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer.
He was putting a lot of pressure on himself and seeking a move overseas.
"You get knocked back and things don't work out, but you keep playing."
In a sense, it was a coming-of-age time for North.
"I was coming from being a young adult, still wanting to go out and enjoy myself and be with the lads. At the same time, you have responsibilities," he said.
"It was all those bits and pieces. I used to worry a lot about certain things. That saying 'worry yourself sick' is a true saying. That's what I used to do."
He bottled things up.
"I never used to talk about certain things," he said.
He often felt ill.
"I was doing every test under the sun because I had this sick feeling. I didn't know what it was," he said.
"There were times I'd sit in the shower of a morning just to wake myself up.
"I'd feel this sickening feeling for sometimes half an hour, 45 minutes or an hour at the start of the day. I didn't know what was going on with me."
Sometimes he felt sick all day from "the minute I woke up to when I went to sleep".
"It was the most horrible feeling I've ever felt - I wouldn't wish it upon anyone," he said.
Newcastle doctor Neil Halpin - "a fantastic guy and great person" - helped him through it.
"He diagnosed me with depression," he said.
Initially, he was in denial.
He was thinking: "That can't be me, I'm quite a happy person".
He was fighting himself, going around in circles in his mind.
"It's a vicious circle. You're worried and depressed."
Seeing a medical professional, he said, helped him understand "exactly what was going on".
Getting to a better place, though, took time.
Even after winning the grand final and lifting the trophy, he wasn't feeling right.
"We sat in the change room and everyone was celebrating. I was sitting in the corner because I felt that sick feeling."
Even when he was playing, he felt sick.
While playing in South Korea in 2009, he was on antidepressant medication but it wasn't working. His perception was affected.
"I remember playing in stadiums and looking at the pitch, worrying about everything that's happening in the stadium," he said.
"It was the most horrible feeling. It felt like the ball was so small. That if it was going to come to me, I wouldn't be able to control it. You're worrying about these stupid things."
The negative and repetitive thought patterns were disconcerting.
"When I was starting to feel better, my mind would think 'Why aren't you feeling sick?'
"You're playing these mind games with yourself. It's really weird."
The hardest part was not knowing what was happening.
"Once you find the way and get the right help and treatment, that's the way to come out of these things," he said.
"Sometimes it can happen quickly, but sometimes it's a bit of a process."
The experience, he said, made him more resilient and "stronger as a person".
"That's one thing I can take out of that," he said.
For more information on the charity that Jade North supports, visit givit.org.au/indigenous.
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