As we waited for Catherine Freeman to adorn our screens last Sunday evening in an ABC documentary celebrating her triumph at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, I took a screenshot of a tweet from local contributor @sallyjgill who posted at 1.45pm.
Local investor, developer, and publican James Johns called it out telling the ABC, “It literally stopped me in my tracks”.
“I pulled the car over and stared at it for about 15 minutes, I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
Ironically in spraying the disgusting and juvenile insult the perpetrator/s forgot to brandish the propellent to deface other Aboriginal names: Waddamana meaning “noisy water” and Miena meaning “lagoon-like”.
The term bogan, an uncouth and ignorant person, was defined by the actions of the graffiti vandal/s.
Twenty-years on from the Sydney Olympic Games we were treated to an incredibly moving television event through the eyes and voice of Cathy Freeman.
Many of us look back at Freeman carrying the Aboriginal flag together with the Australian flag as a triumph. Not so much a political statement, but a statement depicting a First Australian proud to recognise her people and her culture.
It was the public who interpreted the act as political.
I find it peculiar when people say that we should not mix sport and politics.
It shows scant disregard for history and the platform and power required to make change.
Further it is rarely pure politics, rather sport provides a stage for social change that has seldom been achieved by politicians.
Olympic silver medallist Peter Norman, the athlete who stood defiantly and triumphantly with John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s black power symbol at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, was ostracised by the Australian Olympic Committee until his death from a heart attack in 2006.
He was not selected for the Munich Olympics in 1972 even though he met qualifying times on several occasions. And at the Sydney 2000 Olympics the AOC did not believe he was owed an apology and encouraged him to buy tickets like former Olympians.
Team USA invited him instead.
Peter Norman is now idolised for making a stand.
In other news:
During the 1993 AFL season St Kilda champion and First Australian Nicky Winmar, supported by teammate Gilbert McAdam, lifted his jersey and pointed to his skin to call out racial abuse that had plagued his extraordinary career.
The photo depicting the moment captured by Wayne Ludbey has been celebrated by sculptor Louis Laumen in a bronze statue standing at the new Perth Stadium in Western Australia.
Famously the South African Springboks won the 1995 Rugby World Cup in a sense overcoming the devastating impacts of apartheid.
South African president, the late Nelson Mandela, donning a Springbok jersey and baseball cap, presented the Webb Ellis Cup to Afrikaner Captain, Franois Pienaar.
Dual Brownlow medallist and Sydney legend Adam Goodes retired. He could take no more.
Recently Carlton great Eddie Betts pointed to Goodes as the person who gave him strength to stand up to constant racism.
In the 2016 showdown when playing for Adelaide, a Port Adelaide spectator threw a banana at Betts after kicking a trademark snap from the boundary.
He was playing his 250th AFL game. She was banned indefinitely.
Betts wishes he had done more to support Goodes.
Making a stand now is important for him and the community.
NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 “taking a knee” protest against “systemic racism and social injustice” has been practised in Tasmania by NPL soccer teams.
At the 2019 World Aquatics Championships Australian athlete Mackenzie Horton did not stand on the dais next to disgraced Chinese swimmer Sun Yang who would soon receive an eight-year ban for tampering with a drug sample.
The 2018 and 2020 US Open (tennis) champion, Naomi Osaka, wore the names of the dead on her masks in support of Black Lives Matter.
Being proud of who you are or where you are from or standing up for what you believe in should not always be dismissed as political.
Perhaps we need clearer signs from our leaders calling out the type of behaviour we witnessed last Sunday on a road sign in the centre of Tasmania.
Fortunately, federal Lyons Labor MHR Brian Mitchell told media there was no place for such racism in the community.
“Whoever did this should be ashamed of themselves,” Mr Mitchell said.
Central Highlands Mayor Lou Triffit echoed Mr Mitchell’s sentiments: “There are many Tasmanian Aboriginal families living in the Central Highlands and this type of racist graffiti is not welcome or necessary”.
Our community’s views evolve and change very slowly but as Aboriginal people have told me, “we are good at waiting because we have been doing it for 60,000 years”.
- Brian Wightman is a former Attorney-General and school prinicipal, and is the current Australian Education Union state manager
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