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Indigenous heritage recognised in AOC Constitution

21 November 2014

AOC: The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is changing its constitution to recognise our indigenous heritage. 

The AOC President, John Coates, has introduced the change which states:   

To recognise the heritage, culture and contribution of our nation’s first people, and to give practical support to indigenous reconciliation through sport. 

The proposal will be voted on at the next Annual General Meeting of the AOC in May 2015. 

He has also proposed changes to the Australian Olympic Team A.S.P.I.R.E. values. The fifth value Respect has been updated to read:

RESPECT - I respect sport, the efforts of my competitors, my team mates and officials. I respect Australia and its indigenous heritage. I respect our nation’s past and the spirit of Olympism.

See the full A.S.P.I.R.E. values here>>> 

The move has the support of Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who challenged national leaders to recognise our indigenous heritage during a visit to Arnhem Land earlier this year. 

“We are accepting the Prime Minister’s challenge," Coates said. 

“Mr Abbott hit a nerve. This year as we prepare for the centenary of ANZAC we read about the contribution of the Indigenous Australians in both world wars. We marvel at their prowess on the sporting field yet many live in poverty, struggle with poor health, discrimination, drug abuse and an appallingly high suicide rate. 

"More work needs to be done and major sporting organisations, including the Australian Olympic Committee, can lead the way. There is no better way to bring people together than through sport." 

Olympic gold medallist, Cathy Freeman has expressed her appreciation.   

"I am proud that the Australian Olympic Committee recognises Australian Indigenous heritage and this is reflected in a change to their constitution and team values. The one thing that moved me most at the 2000 Olympics, when I saw the joy on everyone's face, was the feeling that sport is an arena where we can all come together and put our differences aside," Freeman said.

"I am very appreciative of the tangible support and commitment that the AOC have offered towards the Cathy Freeman Foundation. The CFF helps indigenous children experience their full potential in school and beyond. It is my belief that education and sport builds confidence and getting the Olympic movement involved in inspiring indigenous children is a very positive step." 

Coates has pledged more practical support for the Cathy Freeman Foundation.

“Cathy Freeman’s appearance on the world stage when she lit the cauldron at the Sydney 2000 Olympics signified Australia’s greatest act of reconciliation. 14 years on she continues to give so much to indigenous Australia and Australia itself,” Coates said. 

“The AOC plans to provide practical support to the Cathy Freeman Foundation. We intend to come in behind Cathy’s Foundation and support her in all of her endeavours. We will make available to her all our Olympic branding including the use of symbols and flags at Sports Days on Palm Island and any other communities where she is holding an event. We will also make available all our “overs” from future Olympic uniforms. 

“We will continue to work with her Foundation through our Education Program co-ordinating Olympians to visit, lead and inspire community based sessions. 

"Changing the AOC Constitution is only the first step. I hope the 35 sports under the AOC umbrella will mobilise, along with other sports, and bring about change. Ultimately, I would definitely like to see more athletes out in the communities encouraging the kids," Coates said.

Australia has been represented by 43 Indigenous athletes at the summer Olympic Games dating back to Tokyo 1964, winning 12 medals with nine of these won by women. See the full list of athletes and more detail here>>>


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