A crime to be proud of First Nations heritage

Indigenous leaders want rules changed

Samantha Lane, Chris Barrett Sydney Morning Herald August 01, 2012

Indigenous leaders say the Olympic rules that outlaw Aboriginal flags at the Games should change, and have called on the Australian Olympic Committee to lobby for the longstanding protocol to be overturned.

Dual Olympian 110-metre hurdler Kyle Vander Kuyp, former world champion boxer Anthony Mundine, and former politician and activist Phil Cleary - who said recognising both flags at the Games would "affirm our real history and be a major act of reconciliation" - led the voices supporting boxer Damien Hooper who breached International Olympic Committee rules by wearing a T-shirt with the Aboriginal flag on it to competition in London.

While the 20-year-old gold medal contender said after competing on Monday that he was proud to respect his culture at the world's biggest sporting event, team boss Nick Green said yesterday morning that Hooper had since told him he was "very remorseful" and "extremely apologetic" about it. Green said Hooper, whose body is covered in tattoos recognising the Kamilaroi and Manandangi heritage of his indigenous mother, Fraulien, and maternal grandmother Lillian, had told him he had worn the T-shirt to provide "extra motivation because he was fighting a very strong opponent".

"We recognise his indigenous culture, and he is very proud of his indigenous culture, but in this instance the IOC has rule 50, which he is now well aware of ... and he's learnt a lesson and he won't do that again," Green said.

The AOC would not take further action against the 20-year-old light-heavyweight, who is a gold medal chance for Australia.

Vander Kuyp said yesterday he completely understood Hooper's desire to represent his indigenous heritage, and recalled how he knowingly flouted rules at the 1994 Commonwealth Games by stitching an Aboriginal flag into his uniform before racing in heats.

Vander Kuyp was warned by Australian team officials not to do it again. Cathy Freeman sparked controversy at the same meet by carrying the Aboriginal flag, and the Australian flag, after winning the 200m sprint. She did the same thing after winning gold at the Sydney Olympics, though her celebrations - according to IOC rules - breached the Olympic charter.

"I would love to see the whole country embrace the flag more," Vander Kuyp said.

"It's not just something for indigenous athletes and indigenous people to embrace. All Australians can embrace it. We're not there yet, but we're on the way. And I reckon we're on the way to our sporting teams saying 'You know what? We're proud of it'."

Cleary said the AOC should lobby for the Aboriginal flag to be recognised at the Olympics "out of respect and because it is not a symbol of conquest".
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Don't knock my off my podium

It is sad day when an Aboriginal boxer wears a shirt that identifies him as an Aboriginal Australian. This come in the same light of John Steffensen coming out with the racism he has suffered as a pro-athlete. As we know becoming a pro-athlete does not just magically happen there is a massive amount of skill, commitment, sacrifices, tears, fears, high and lows and mostly being selfish and putting yourself and career first. There is also dealing with ‘parents’ that feel (with financial backing) that their child should have been selected and not the ‘darkie’ down the road.

There is a saying from actor Will Smith ‘if you were absent during my struggles, don’t expect to be there for my success’ and I would also at this time use the quote from Star Wars. Which is ‘fear leads to hate’ you fear something you do not understand and have no education on the subject. I think that these two quotes are important when dealing with these two situations as these Aboriginal Olympic athletes would have had to deal not only with the life of a pro athlete but with bucket of endless racism, bigotry, set backs and leaving their family and community.

I know people say but everyone leaves home, people forget the stolen generation, forget that Aboriginal peoples relatives such as parent and grandparents were not considered a part of Australian until the referendum. That they fly a flag that contains a flag that denigrated, isolated, debilitated and exterminate our people.

When an Aboriginal person finds success the first you will hear them do is say this is for their people, the family and especially there grandparents and the fallen. I personally saw my mother stand in the PM’s home and welcome people to her land of the Ngunnawal people the first thing my mother does is state – this is for my grandfather who would be so proud. What was the first thing Damien Hooper do? He put a photo of his grandmother on his facebook page.

But I think the real fat to the fire is he wore the shirt in the heart of a place that tried to exterminate his and my peoples, he looked them in the eye and stood proud. His stance is and was – we survived in despite of you but through the strength of my people and people like his grandmother!

Just to end I would also like to note the Aboriginal flag by nomination of his Queens representative the Governor General in 1996 recognised that Aboriginal Flag as part of this countries common law, stamped and sealed!


I am so proud of our Aboriginal athletes and relate back to Will Smith quote do not knock any of Aboriginal Athletes as you weren’t there during there struggle to represent Australia, you would have no idea how and what they did to get there, leaving their life, their family and their community. So when they stand their proud they stand their for all those people they had to as a community leave behind.

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