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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6183

Mr MARLES (Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry) (4:27 PM) —Australia is a nation of sports lovers. Footy, cricket, tennis, swimming, golf—we love it all. Sport is a fantastic social leveller and it is also a wonderful vehicle for the recognition and celebration of our Indigenous heritage. This is particularly true for AFL football. Who can forget the iconic image of Nicky Winmar lifting his jumper and pointing to the colour of his skin? That powerful gesture triggered a long-overdue debate, and today we see it as a watershed moment. Michael Long followed it up two years later when he refused to sit back and ignore an on-field racial taunt. It has taken a long time for Indigenous players to get the recognition they deserve in footy. This year, a record 82 Indigenous footballers are on senior and rookie lists in the AFL—that is more than 10 per cent of players. My team, Geelong, has five Indigenous players on the senior list: Adam and Travis Varcoe, Matthew Stokes, Steven Motlop and Nathan Djerrkura. That is five out of 47, also more than 10 per cent—quite an achievement, given that Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders make up just two per cent of our population.

Other sports see what footy has achieved for Indigenous players and recognise the same opportunities for participation exist within their own sport. In 1971, Evonne Goolagong cemented her place in history as the first Aboriginal woman to reach the world sporting stage when she won Wimbledon. She dominated the sport throughout the seventies and the early eighties, but an Indigenous tennis player has not reached the same dizzying heights of world No. 1 since. Tennis is less accessible than footy—you need a court to play on and a racket to play with—but it is a great world game that should not be beyond the reach of Indigenous children.

So, next month, during NAIDOC week, Victoria’s first ever Indigenous tennis festival is to be held in Geelong. It is a free event, open to school-age children of any ability, who will travel from across the state to take part. For some, it will be the first time they have picked up a racket. For others, it may cement a lifelong passion in a sport in which they excel. For others, these few days may present an opportunity for future work behind the scenes in administration or events management. There is no doubt there is interest there. A coaching clinic was recently organised for Indigenous children living in Geelong. The organisers were expecting a handful of children for the seven-week course, but the turnout was instead about 40 children. That enthusiasm was encouraging.

Evonne Goolagong Cawley runs her own coaching campus each year at Box Hill Senior Secondary College. She has also awarded tennis scholarships to talented youngsters across Australia. But there is obviously a need to broaden the accessibility and appeal of a sport that can be played by all ages and across all social and racial boundaries. The Geelong Lawn Tennis Club and the Geelong College have welcomed the festival and provided the use of their own courts for what is being called the Darranggeeyt Festival of Tennis, Darranggeeyt being a Wathaurong word for having a hit. That may be all it is to 100 or so children, but it is a great way of closing the gap as to opportunity and is perhaps another way of finding yet another Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for constituency statements has concluded.