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Australian Indigenous Olympians recognised for Olympic Day

23 June 2017

AOC: The spirit of the Olympic movement was alive and well today, as the Australian Olympic Committee hosted a ‘Reception for Indigenous Olympic Athlete Recognition’ at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence.

A perfect tie in to International Olympic Day, a world-wide celebration of the Olympic movement, today’s ceremony included the recognition of 10 Indigenous athletes that competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, who were added to the honour board of Australian Indigenous Olympians.

Three of those athletes including Kyah Simon (Football), John Porch (Rugby 7s) and Joel Swift (Water polo) were present at today’s ceremony.

“It was a really special moment, seeing my name up on that wall,” said Simon, who was part of the women’s football team that finished 7th at the 2016 Games.

“I am incredibly proud of my indigenous heritage and today, particularly being that it was Olympic Day, was a great opportunity to acknowledge not only my roots, but those of my fellow indigenous Olympians.

“I hope that more and more young kids come into the NCIE from whatever community they are from, see the names on this wall and aspire of have theirs up there as well.”

AOC CEO, Matt Carroll, also acknowledged the importance of indigenous athletes within the Olympic movement with a total of 51 donning the Australian uniform at the Summer Olympic Games.

“Olympians hold a special place in the Australian community – leading by example they set standards demonstrating that hard work and commitment can lead to success,” Carroll said.

“The AOC greatly appreciates the NCIE for prominently displaying the honour board along with the Paralympian’s board, for the community and visitors to see year-round and hopefully inspire indigenous youth to strive and persevere for their own journey.”

Also acknowledged at today’s celebrations was four-time Olympian and World Champion, Rob de Castella who has been awarded the IOC’s ‘Sport Beyond Borders’ trophy for his work with the
Indigenous Marathon Foundation (IMF).

De Castella founded the IMF in 2010 and has since used his sport of marathon to change lives, promoting healthy and active lifestyles throughout indigenous communities.

“Since IMF began in 2010, it has highlighted to me the power that sport has to inspire people who can make a real and significant difference to some of the major issues we face today,” said de Castella.

“The Indigenous Marathon Foundation has demonstrated the incredible capacity running and the marathon has to build a self-belief and a force in young indigenous people, that enables them to address issues they are passionate about.”

“The Olympics celebrate much that is good about mankind, and our youth. This is exactly what we do through IMF so there is a real and significant alignment between both organisations.”

In its seven-year existence, the IMF has produced 65 graduates, finding as de Castella describes “ordinary non-sports people who do the extra ordinary, but use running to drive the change.”

“Recognition of our outstanding athletes demonstrates to everyone, indigenous and non-indigenous the incredible talent, dedication and commitment that so many young indigenous men and women have, and this helps to make excellence normal, and this is very important as we move forward with our Australian Indigenous people.”

The AOC through its Olympic education program has shown continued support for Australian Indigenous communities, by collaborating with organisations like Robert de Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Project, as well as the Cathy Freeman Foundation, Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy and Federal Government’s ‘Remote School Attendance program.

The AOC is extremely proud of the 51 Indigenous athletes that have represented Australia at the Olympic Games. These 38 men and 13 women have contributed to 12 medals in our Olympic history.

A final part of the today’s Ceremony saw Simon, Porch and Swift return an artwork, created by NCIE students and artist Dennis Golding, which hung in the Athletes HUB in the Australian section of the Rio Olympic Village.

For NCIE CEO Kirstie Parker, receiving this artwork was a memorable moment, on behalf of the entire Centre.

“We are extremely proud to be able to welcome home from Rio, the artwork painted by our talented children as part of our school programs,” Parker said.

“The students led by artist and NCIE staffer Dennis Goulding painted this about a year ago for the Australian athlete’s village in Rio and we will now display it on site for all to see.

“The NCIE is proud to be able to continue to recognise on site at the NCIE the ever-growing number of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Olympians.

“They are an ongoing inspiration to our people as well as to the broader community,” Parker said.
More information about Australian Indigenous Olympians can be found: http://corporate.olympics.com.au/olympians/indigenous-australian-olympians

Ashleigh Knight

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