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‘Sport is a powerful tool in reconciliation’: Athletes share their thoughts on National Reconciliation Week

27 May 2021

Sport has always been a huge part of life for proud Noongar man and Australian boxer Alex Winwood, and he hopes it will also play as big a role in the next steps of reconciliation.

“Sport is a powerful tool in promoting reconciliation as it brings all Australians together, Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” Winwood said.

This year’s National Reconciliation Day theme is More Than a Word: Reconciliation Takes Action. The theme encourages us to reflect on our current contribution towards reconciliation, and how we can work towards righting the wrongs of the past, to effectively move forward.

To show a commitment to making change and promoting reconciliation, the Australian Institute of Sport, Sport Australia, the Australian Olympic Committee, Paralympics Australia, Commonwealth Games Australia, ACT Academy of Sport, NSW Institute of Sport, NT Institute of Sport, Queensland Academy of Sport, SA Sports Institute, Tasmanian Institute of Sport, Victorian Institute of Sport, WA Institute of Sport have come together in a joint statement to unite sport and provide more substantive action on reconciliation moving forward.

The statement, which was developed in consultation with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Elders, Community Leaders, and athletes, shows the commitment of sporting organisations to take further, braver, more substantiative action towards reconciliation, and that we will do this together, as a unified network for the benefit of all in sport, and Australian communities.

For Winwood, reconciliation means: “coming together as Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous together, and using sport as the vehicle to take that first step forward in promoting reconciliation and coming together as one country.”

He added: “It’s important for sport to work towards reconciliation because it’s important for everybody to work towards reconciliation as a country.”

The 23-year-old flyweight from Western Australia was recently announced as the first Indigenous athlete selected for Tokyo.

On his selection, Winwood said: “Being able to represent my country and my heritage is exactly who I am, I want to bring everyone together, my country and my people at the same time.”

Winwood has joined fellow AIS Share a Yarn athletes, para-triathlete Katie Kelly and race walker Beki Smith, to describe what reconciliation means to them in a video to mark National Reconciliation Week.

Bringing people together has always been what sport has been about for Kelly, who won gold at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games.

“I know as a young kid growing up in Country NSW sport was the one thing I really enjoyed and where I felt equal,” Kelly said.

“When we are on the sporting field, we are all equal. We are all bound by the same set of rules and we are playing together and playing for our mates.

“We all look up to our sporting clubs, our presidents, our CEOS and by them taking leadership with reconciliation, it encourages all of us to speak up and to ensure that our First Nation people are safe, are included, and that Australia can move one step closer to being a more healed and peaceful country.”

Smith agreed and added: “It is important for sport to work towards reconciliation because when we unite as one it is only going to benefit us to become a stronger nation on the sporting arena.

“The actions of these sporting organisations unifying towards reconciliation means to me that athletes will have a greater understanding of who we are representing when we put on that green and gold.”

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