AOC honours female Indigenous Olympians for NAIDOC Week
13 July 2018
AOC: In the spirit of NAIDOC Week 2018 and its theme “Because of her, we can,” the AOC celebrates the outstanding achievements of our Indigenous female Olympians and the women who inspire them.
Of the 52 Indigenous athletes to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, 39 are men and 13 are women. But between them, the women have won 75% of Australia’s 12 Indigenous medals.
From our first ever Indigenous female Olympian and medallist, Samantha Riley, to basketballer and Rio 2016 Olympian, Leilani Mitchell, our Indigenous Olympic history is rich, diverse and star-studded with exceptional athletes of whom we take great pride in.
In Indigenous culture, family, community and kinship come above all else, so who are the great women behind these Olympians, that have inspired them to reach such great heights?
Current Matildas Goalkeeper, Lydia Williams says that seeing Cathy Freeman compete during Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000, was what gave her the vision and motivation to pursue her own dreams.
"I was just so inspired, especially seeing her carry both the Aboriginal and the Australian flag together during her victory lap, I felt so proud."
The Kalgoorlie original hopes that she can inspire future Indigenous athletes the same way Freeman inspired her.
"I want young Indigenous girls and women to believe that no matter where you come from or what your circumstances are, anything is possible, as long as you believe in yourself."
For Hockeyroo and Rio 2016 Olympian Mariah Williams, her greatest inspiration is her great-grandmother, Nelly.
“Because of her, I can stand up tall and proud of my Indigenous heritage. When I step out onto the field playing for the Australian National Women’s Hockey Team, I represent not only my country but my Indigenous Elders, past and present,” Williams said.
As for what legacy she wants to leave behind for other Indigenous girls and women, the coach for the Pilbara Indigenous Community Hockey program said,
“Through my example, I want Indigenous girls and women to be proud of our culture, to push for greatness and to be able to pursue their dreams.
“I want them to see the way my career started, in a small country town, mucking around at the hockey fields to then representing Australia as one of 10 Indigenous athletes at Rio 2016.
“I want to inspire Indigenous girls and women to work hard, motivate themselves to pursue bigger and better things and always remember where they come from”.
After recently winning four gold medals on the FIVB World Tour of Beach Volleyball with her partner Mariafe Artacho, Taliqua Clancy says she has been blessed growing up surrounded by strong Indigenous women who instilled in her the values of strength and hard work.
“My family are all female except for my poor grandfather!” Clancy said. “My grandmother, mother and two aunties have all had a huge impact on my life and supported me since the beginning of my journey. They’re all tough as nails and such hard workers.
“My mum is the hardest worker I know and as an athlete those traits are so important. There are so many highs and lows in sport, you need the strength to get back up and keep working hard.”
Clancy wants to inspire the next generation to believe in themselves and follow their dreams, the same way she did.
“I’ve been blessed with so many amazing opportunities in my career and life, just through having belief and confidence in my dreams, so I want to inspire as many girls and women as I can, to pursue their own dreams and create their own journeys.
“I hope I can also encourage these girls to live a healthy lifestyle. I believe that with a healthy mind and body, you can achieve absolutely anything.”
Currently, the 26-year-old from the rural town of Kingaroy QLD is giving back to the next generation of Indigenous athletes by partnering with Port Adelaide Football Club.
“Annually they have the Aboriginal Power Cup, WillPower and have also started the first Women’s Aboriginal AFL Program, so I am extremely proud to be involved.”
Matildas striker and the first Indigenous Australian to score in a World Cup, Kyah Simon, shares a similar story. Just like Williams and Clancy, Simon was lucky enough to have been influenced and supported by many strong Indigenous women throughout her life.
"There have definitely been a few women in my life who have made me think to myself, "because of her, I can."
"My mum, sister and nan have all influenced and inspired me throughout my life, and they encourage me to do the same for others. Without these three women, I wouldn't be where I am today.
"Their support, determination to never give up, resilience through hardship and unconditional love is what drives me to be the best possible version of myself.
"All of their sacrifices have enabled me to live my dream, so I endeavour to make them, along with the rest of my family proud, as often as I possibly can."
The twenty seven year-old said that her dream is to leave a legacy for young indigenous girls and women that encourages them to pursue greatness.
"I want these girls to be able to say - because of Kyah, I had the confidence to never give up and not settle for anything less than my best.
"A dream begins with a thought, which turns into motivation, determination, self-belief and finally, reality, so set your goals high and don't limit yourself with mediocre expectations.
"I believe in each and every one of you, the world is yours - go after it!"
Find out more about our Indigenous Olympians HERE