Categories
Culture Events

20 years on, Cathy Freeman creates a legacy of hope for young Aboriginal women

Australian flag and gold medal
Image: iStock

Tuesday, 15 September (AEST) marked twenty years since Sydney hosted the Olympics.

I was eleven when the Olympics was in Sydney in 2000. While I wasn’t really into sport, I knew that it was a major event. I even got enthusiastic about it.

Australia claimed a number of new gold medallists; joining the history books with former swimmer, Dawn Fraser and hockey champion Nova Peris. Swimmers like Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe won Australia’s heart as well as gold medals.

So did sprinter, Cathy Freeman.

Cathy Freeman inspires generation of young Aboriginal people

According to ABC Life, a number of Aboriginal women were inspired by Freeman’s success. Author of the article, Molly Hunt described Freeman as “a legend” that “forever changed the hearts of many young black people and the nation”.

Hunt, who was an aspiring runner herself, saw herself in Freeman.

Maddie Whitford said that she felt “proud” of Freeman’s success and that she was experiencing so much media attention.

Even though Jash doesn’t consider herself a ‘sports person’, she felt inspired by Freeman’s victory sprint:

I think it was so powerful when she had two of the flags because it reinforces the statement that, firstly, she is an Aboriginal woman, and that she won that medal, not only for Australia, but for her community.

I can appreciate the impact that Freeman’s win had on young Aboriginal people. It must’ve been great to see their heritage represented on the global stage.

Torch relay

The torch took off around the world, like it is every four years. 1500 people were involved in the Oceania leg of the relay. Freeman ran took the torch to Olympic Park in Sydney where Freeman ignited the Ring of Fire.

The beginning and end of the Australian torch relay was significant. Nova Peris – Kneebone started the relay, and Cathy Freeman ended it.

It was a spectacular coincidence; two Aboriginal women both started and ended the Australian Olympic Torch Relay. Aboriginal pride was there for all to see. I’m sure for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it’s an event that they’ll never forget.

400 m sprint

25 September 2000: The great moment – Cathy Freeman’s 400m sprint victory.

 

At 49:13 seconds, Freeman won gold. It was just short of the world (47:6 seconds) and the Olympic record (48:25 seconds).

Even though that was a monumental achievement, Freeman told the ABC that she was disappointment at her time. She thought she could do better.

 

The Sydney Olympics were a great chapter in Australian history. I’m sure it’s been etched in the minds of most Australians. Personally, I don’t think the 2000 Olympics have been repeated. Maybe it never will.

Media coverage 20 years on

I haven’t seen one negative article on Cathy Freeman. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that her victory wasn’t marred by politics.

The ABC, Alan Jones on Sky News Australia have expressed awe at what she achieved. It’s nice to see a news story (or history in this case), not be marred in controversy.

 

What are your memories of the 2000 Sydney Olympics? Feel free to leave any thoughts in the comments below.

 

Categories
Opinion/Commentary

‘The Final Quarter’ sparks racism debate again

2016 and 2017 was plagued by same – sex marriage debate and LGBTQ+ rights. 2019 is about Indigenous Australians; their symbols, (i.e. whether people should be able to climb Uluru), whether Aboriginal people should be mentioned in the Australian Constitution as the ‘First Australians’ and whether there should be an extra body for Indigenous people in the Australian parliament.

Now, the Adam Goodes controversy has been revisited.

The Final Quarter caused a stir,  even  before premiering on free – to – air TV last Thursday.

It is about former Sydney Swans star, Adam Goodes. A media storm erupted after Goodes called out a thirteen – year – old female Collingwood supporter who called him an ape. Unfortunately, this caused a backlash against Goodes that lasted two seasons.

AFL embroiled in race debate

After calling out the thirteen – year – old, Goodes did a press conference, which only added fuel to a raging fire.

I don’t think Goodes saying “racism has a face” was a smart choice. It’s been used against him ever since. However, Goodes did everyone to back off because she was only a kid. He didn’t want her to be charged or harassed.

I’ve also heard that Goodes wasn’t behind the move for police to interview the teenager. Was that an overreaction from the AFL itself?

Australia Day controversy

Goodes became Australian of the Year in 2014. While it seemed like an uplifting move; an Indigenous man receiving one of Australia’s most celebrated awards, it quickly added tension and division. Goodes used his platform to raise contentious issues, such as the ‘Recognise‘ campaign and condemning alleged atrocities committed by early British settlers.

 

The role of the media

A number of commentators and journalists did, and continue to defend Adam Goodes and condemn the spectators and his critics.

Others pointed fingers at  Goodes. Whilst calling the constant booing  of Goodes “bullying“, Newscorp columnist and TV presenter, Andrew Bolt has repeatedly criticised Goodes for his “over reaction” over being called an ape.

Bolt has suggested that Goodes admit he was wrong and he may have got critics’ respect again.

He, along with other commentators, have repeatedly criticised Goodes’ press conference in the aftermath of being called an “ape”. (the video I posted above).

Frankly, I hate how Goodes’ critics pick out the unfortunate statement “racism has a face”, while often ignoring Goodes’s defence of the girl. Herald Sun’s and Sky News Australia’s Rita Panahi did that only last week on Outsiders. (To his credit, Bolt has put the comment in context).

My verdict on ‘The Final Quarter’

Yes, it was largely biased. It was obviously told from the perspectives of Adam Goodes and his defenders.

It paints an unfortunate picture of what went down. I believe that Adam Goodes was bullied and that the whole saga got out of hand. It should have never got that bad.

It showed how the media often inflamed the situation. Did Goodes always do or say the right thing? Probably not. That’s not an excuse for repeatedly taking his words out of context, even six years later. Nothing can excuse for bad behaviour against Goodes (surprisingly, some of the spectators agree and have apologised).

Believe it or not, I think there is an upside to the whole Adam Goodes saga. It gave Indigenous people courage to voice their own experiences of racism. I remember being almost emotional when  former Labor president, Warren Mundine AO admitted the psychological toll racial abuse had on him.

Actress, Miranda Tapsell also spoke up about racism.

 

I think The Final Quarter, like Adam Goodes himself, hit a raw nerve for many people. Let’s hope we can find a way to move past it.

If this post has raised any issues, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.