LETTER: John Bell – my fight with Robert de Castella


Sir – As a former resident of 45 years’ ongoing association with the people of the Alice, I am writing this letter with a very heavy heart.
In 2009 I was approached by Rob de Castella, an Australian sporting icon and longstanding friend,  to return to the Alice to establish his Indigenous Marathon Project in Central Australia.
My first task was to recruit, coach and  prepare young Aboriginal athletes to compete in the 2010 New York Marathon. My wider task was to establish support networks in the Territory for future Project development.
Unfortunately, in July 2010 a workplace dispute arose between Rob and me.  It  is now before the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Canberra awaiting decision.
One of the workplace issues in dispute is an allegation to the Tribunal by Rob that I am a racist, that during my employment I made “many racist remarks” to participants in the Project.
I categorically reject Rob’s allegation. I am not a racist. I have never made any racist remarks to the many good people in the Project.
Several approaches to  Rob to clarify and withdraw his allegation of racism and to conciliate all the workplace issues have been rejected.
The decision of the Canberra-based Tribunal is expected in the New Year.
I wish to reassure my many friends and former associates in the Project and in the Alice community that I continue to fully support the Project’s aims and objectives, and most of all, the people of Central Australia.
John Bell
Lyneham ACT
[ED – The Alice News sent the following email to Mr de Castella on December 1. He has not replied.
Hi Robert,
You’ll recall our exchange of emails and resulting stories (please google our site).
John Bell has now sent me his notes from hearings of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs enquiring into the contribution of sport to Indigenous wellbeing and mentoring. There is information on the public record about this.
Your SmartStart for Kids initiative seems to be focussed on Central Australia and so it may be of interest to us.
For me to be able to decide whether to further look into this, would you please answer the following questions:-
What has been the benefit of your project to young Aborigines so far?
How many have benefited?
Where do they live?
What are the major items of expenditure – can we look at the financial reports?
When did SmartStart for Kids start?
What are the plans for 2013?
What is the “significant” private funding mentioned in the hearings?
What is the annual contribution from the public purse?
Please nominate two participants I can speak with.]


  1. Loie and I have known John for some years now and have always been impressed with his enthusiasm for running, life and Windy Hill. He is one of life’s larger than life characters, a man of passion and vision. He is certainly not a racist, indeed he was important in the success of the NY Marathon project, working closely with the young blokes. It is surprising and disappointing that Rob de Castella has made this allegation. Perhaps because of the weakness of his case in this dispute against John?

  2. Rob de Castella has never once called John Bell a racist and I can 100% confirm this. John Bell is ruining the great work the IMP team is doing with his ongoing tirade and harassment of Rob.

  3. How can Steven Hall or for that matter anyone except De Castella be anywhere near 100% sure of what De Castella has said.
    It seems that many people will choose to believe a high profile sportsperson based on their sporting achievements alone.
    Disappointing that De Castella has not bothered to answer your e-mail.


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