The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has taken another step on its journey of reconciliation through sport with the launch of its ‘Reflect’ Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
The AOC is working to recognise the heritage, culture and history of First Nations people at every level of the organisation.
Since 2015, when the AOC Constitution was first amended to commit the organisation to giving practical support to Indigenous reconciliation through sport, there have been significant changes to both the organisations governance and strategic development.
These changes include:
• The establishment of the Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) in 2019
• Further constitutional change in 2021 ensuring an enduring representation both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island representatives on the AOC Athletes’ Commission
• Creation of an Indigenous Athlete Liaison position for the Australian Team at the Tokyo Olympic Games, with Kyle Vander Kuyp appointed to the role
• Incorporating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artwork in Olympic Team apparel and integrating the services of Indigenous people in Games operations.
• Ongoing outreach support for Indigenous projects including the Indigenous Marathon Project
• The AOC continues to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to create a range of opportunities to further their commitment to First Nations people.
In launching the RAP, the AOC was joined by Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine along with members of the AOC’s IAC including Patrick Johnson, Danny Morseu and Kyle Vander-Kuyp.
President of the Australian Olympic Committee John Coates says the AOC is determined to take critical and meaningful action to recognise, support and improve the lives of our First Nations people.
“In taking these first steps on the organisations RAP journey, the AOC would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful contribution made by our Indigenous Olympians.
“We know that sport has the power to heal and unite. Catherine Freeman’s victory in the 400-metres at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games is a shimmering example of that power.
“I would like to thank our Indigenous Advisory Committee for their commitment, hard work and careful guidance in helping the AOC on a path to reconciliation. The IAC has played vital role in the development of the RAP. I’d also like to thank Reconciliation Australia for their guidance and support in bringing this to life.
The day featured a moving video of the 52 Indigenous Olympians that have represented Australia at an Olympic Games.
Boxer and Tokyo Team member Alex Winwood, who could potentially be the 53rd Indigenous Olympian spoke alongside Olympian, beach volleyballer Taliqua Clancy about the upcoming Games and the significant steps the AOC are taking towards reconciliation.
The AOC was joined on the day by Deadly Choices who held their inaugural ‘Young Olympic Deadlies’ event putting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth through their paces with the support of the Queensland Academy of Sport.
Olympian, proud Kaanju man and Chair of the AOC’s first Indigenous Advisory Committee, Patrick Johnson sees this day as an important first step for the AOC.
“I’m extremely proud to be deeply involved in this process and to see the AOC take their first step towards reconciliation, there is no more important step than the first.
“This is a major milestone for the Australian Olympic movement, I believe the time is right and Australia’s Olympians are ready to be engaged in difficult, challenging, uplifting and enlightening conversations to change the future for our First Nations people.
“The road ahead may not be easy, very few great things in life are easily achieved, it’s the difficult challenges that are the most worthwhile. I’m looking forward to the future and helping to bring to life a shared vision for all Australian’s to acknowledge, recognise and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culture and our shared history.
"Sport creates influence, the real positive change for our children and future generations is through education and awareness and we are all leaders of that conversation.”
CEO of Reconciliation Australian, Karen Mundine welcomed the AOC on their RAP journey and congratulated the organisation on taking its first steps.
“This first RAP that has been developed by the Australian Olympic Committee and their IAC will deepen the organisation’s understanding of its sphere of influence and the unique contribution it can make towards helping to create a just, equitable, and reconciled Australia.
“This will underpin the sustainability of future RAPs and reconciliation initiatives and provide meaningful impact on the organisations reconciliation journey.
“I would like to congratulate the AOC on taking this very important first step, I look forward to working with the organisation on future RAPs and witnessing their pathway to reconciliation."
The Hon Craig Crawford, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships discussed the important role sport plays in inspiring youth in the community.
“Sport has the ability to bring communities together. It’s critical that major sporting organisations like the AOC take a leadership position on reconciliation. I commend the AOC for taking this crucial step.
“Our Indigenous Olympians are a source of inspiration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. They help to provide positive direction for our young people and enable them to follow their Olympic dreams.
“I’m also excited to see Deadly Choices incorporated in this event to help our young people to make the right choices in life and to help them to build a healthy and prosperous future.
“We encourage more organisations and business to follow the lead of the AOC and commit to providing a better future for our First Nations people across the country.”
Adrian Carson, CEO of the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, the organisation responsible for the Deadly Choices program said, “We are delighted to be part of this great day and have the opportunity to encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth to follow their Olympic dreams and make healthy choices.
“Through Deadly Choices, we’re making a real difference in closing the health and life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and with the support and commitment of organisations like the AOC, we are gaining momentum and working to improve the lives of Indigenous people across the country.
“Todays ‘Reflect’ RAP and the ‘Young Olympic Deadlies’ event is a great example of how the AOC are using their sphere of influence to reach out to Indigenous youth and use Olympians to provide a positive direction to help our kids make deadly choices, including forming a lifelong commitment to being active and getting involved in Olympic sport.”
Olympian and Member of the AOC’s IAC Beki Smith reflected on what the RAP means for sport and up-and-coming Indigenous athletes.
“It’s really pretty special, being part of bringing the AOCs RAP to life has helped me to give back to sport and play a role in elevating reconciliation both nationally and internationally.
“The RAP provides a way of moving forward, it opens doors, helps people to ask questions and is a way of being seen and heard.
“I’m really proud of this step and I believe that it will help our Indigenous athletes from grassroots to high performance feel they have a place and feel welcome in Olympic sport.”