Thorpe moving mountain of Indigenous disadvantage

4 Comments
Ian Thorpe's Fountain for YouthOlympic swimming champions know how to move mountains. Especially Ian Thorpe. That's why it's particularly significant that Thorpe has spoken so passionately and insightfully about his resolve to help turn around Australia's grim record on health care for its Indigenous citizens.

Last week, Crikey published his monumental speech to the Beyond Sport Summit in London earlier this month.

'In 20 remote Australian communities and with thousands of Aboriginal children I know life will have some extra opportunities if I commit to work hard on this. I do intend to work hard at this for the rest of my life.'

Thorpe has spent time visiting Indigenous communities, where he was shocked by Third World health standards in the middle of a country that boasts some of the highest living standards of any nation on earth.

'Malnourished mothers are giving birth to babies that are seriously underweight and this only gets worse throughout a life born into poverty. Here diabetes affects one in every two adults. Kidney disease is in epidemic proportions in communities where living conditions, primary healthcare and infrastructure are truly appalling.'

Thorpe may have been super-human in his ability to perform in the pool. But he was just like us in being slow to comprehend the huge gap in health and education outcomes, and the differences of life expectancy.

'I, as many had, made an assumption; Australia is a rich country, don't we throw a lot of money at that problem? It disgusts me to speak those words now but that was what I thought.'

It's not uncommon for sports and other celebrities to get involved in charity work. But this speech suggests Thorpe is far ahead of the pack. Not only is he aware of the magnitude of the problem of Indigenous disadvantage, but he has a realistic understanding of his own ability to make a difference through a combination of his values and the power of celebrity.

'It is a bit disappointing that a teenager's opinion garnered more attention than those who had been working on their chosen causes before I was even born ... When I was 18 I established my charity, Fountain for Youth. I didn't realise at the time that this may be my biggest accomplishment. An achievement not in the sense of doing something right, rather a stepping stone where my values that I had gained from sport could be transferred to something that is bigger than sport and in my opinion far more important.'


Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

 

Topic tags: michael mullins, Beyond Sport Summit, Fountain for youth, indigenous disadvantage

 

 

submit a comment

Existing comments

Ian Thorpe has voiced our embarrassment and our blindness, deafness and stone cold hearts in not embracing those who have been treated worse than animals. We may say it was terrible in colonial times but our times reveal nothing has changed. History will reveal the decimation, in a slow culling, of this ancient people through disease, infrastucture,and apathy. China's values on human rights reflect ours on a larger scale .We have to wake up to ourselves and go find out what's happening in our proud country. a treaty is 200 years overdue.
catherine | 27 July 2009


The 'Sorry' moved non-indigenous Australians a long way in our understanding of indigenous disadvantage and discrimination. Perhaps Thorpe's speech is indicative of a positive change in attitudes; Crikey's publication of the speech attracted some 40 blogs all of which were supportive, possibly a surprising and certainly a heartening response.
This is the sort of change in attitude that is necessary to empower indigenous people through giving them the respect that we all need in order to achieve in society. But we need a lot more! We need to go beyond government programs and 'Sorry'. It may at last be time for the treaty that governments have been reluctant to pursue.

A treaty should at the least document the historical facts of the 'grim record' that Michael Mullins refers to and engender stronger resolution by all non-indigenous Australians to remove the still disgraceful disadvantages and pervasive discrimination blighting the lives of so many indigenous Australians.
Peter Johnstone | 27 July 2009


The 'Sorry' moved non-indigenous Australians a long way in our understanding of indigenous disadvantage and discrimination. Perhaps Thorpe's speech is indicative of a positive change in attitudes; Crikey's publication of the speech attracted some 40 blogs all of which were supportive (http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/07/23/ian-thorpe-australias-dirty-little-secret/), possibly a surprising and certainly a heartening response.

This is the sort of change in attitude that is necessary to empower indigenous people through giving them the respect that we all need in order to achieve in society. But we need a lot more! We need to go beyond government programs and 'Sorry'. It may at last be time for the treaty that governments have been reluctant to pursue.

A treaty should at the least document the historical facts of the 'grim record' that Michael Mullins refers to and engender stronger resolution by all non-indigenous Australians to remove the still disgraceful disadvantages and pervasive discrimination blighting the lives of so many indigenous Australians.

Peter Johnstone | 27 July 2009


I was very interested to hear about Ian Thorpe's interest in helping the aboriginal people. They are our heritage, and we are slowly ,or not so slowly, destroying them.
Because of his public image, Ian would ,I think, be a great inspiration to others, especially the young adults.This is the first time I had realised what he was doing. Perhaps my fault, but I usually watch topical programmes, and his ventures have escaped me. I would love to see his work more publicised. It makes me want to do something for these people who have had their world taken from them. I am a mature housewife and could teach English, or help with the mothers and babies. I don't know if he takes oldies to help, but would be willing to try.
Bernie Introna | 28 July 2009


Similar Articles

Race riots and the multiplex

  • Sarah Ayoub
  • 30 July 2009

The boys of Lebanon have found a niche in Aussie pop culture. Several recent films deal with Arab-Australians as the 'other', examining the extent of their assimilation, the codes they live by, and their functions within a 'tolerant' society.

READ MORE

Aggro Abbott vs Hockey the bear

  • John Warhurst
  • 29 July 2009

Hockey, a big friendly bear of a man, is popular in the electorate. Abbott suffers from his aggressive stance and his image as a conservative Catholic. Both are contenders for the Liberal leadership should Turnbull fall before the next federal election.

READ MORE

We've updated our privacy policy.

Click to review