National Reconciliation Week: Adding to a Rich History


By Josh Squire

Australia has a strong and proud history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders athletes competing in sport, including at the Commonwealth Games, with our athletes creating some of the most iconic moments in sporting history.

Celebrating iconic sporting moments throughout the history of the Commonwealth Games, this National Reconciliation Week (NRW) we look to build on those storied moments, telling the stories of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes who competed at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Birmingham 2022 built on our history, with the Australian team finishing atop the medal tally once again, collecting 180 medals with more than 250 individual medallists. 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes were chosen to compete in nine different sports, collectively winning five medals, including a gold, three silvers and a bronze.

A Games of Firsts

Of the 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes, seven were Commonwealth Games debutants, yet that certainly didn’t stop them from collecting a swathe of medals of all different colours.

Muruwari woman Ashleigh Gardner had already established herself as a top women’s cricketer in the world globally. With Women’s T20 Cricket making its Games debut, the side set their sights on adding another trophy to a bloated cabinet and made it to the final to take on a strong Indian team.

Helping the team to a total of 161 after a quickfire 25 runs from 15 balls, Gardner played a game-changing role with the ball. Dismissing two middle-order batters in two balls – including the Indian captain Harmanpreet Kaur for 65 – the all-rounder dragged the Aussies back into the game.

Her final figures of 3/16 in three overs were instrumental in restricting India to 152, nine runs short of the Australian total.

Not only did the win secure Australia’s first gold medal in cricket at the Commonwealth Games, Gardner became the 14th Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athlete to win a gold medal in Games history, joining the likes of Cathy Freeman OAM, Samantha Riley and Nova Peris OAM.

Although Gardner was the only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athlete to strike gold in Birmingham, other first-timers found themselves on the podium too.

Emulating Gardner’s feat as the first Indigenous cricketer, Ngarrindjeri woman Alex “Ally” Wilson became the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander basketballer to compete at the Commonwealth Games when she took the court in the women’s 3×3 basketball.

She played a key part in Australia’s undefeated run through the group stage, including a seven-point performance in the opening match against Scotland.

Although the team was eliminated from gold medal contention by England in the semi-finals, they remained a chance for bronze when they came up against New Zealand in the third-place match. Wilson opened the scoring with a free throw as the Aussies got the job done 15-13 to take home the bronze medal.

(From L-R): Lauren Scherf, Marena Whittle, Alex 'Ally' Wilson, and Lauren Mansfield hold the Australian Aboriginal flag and the flag of the Ngarrindjeri mob.

In the boxing ring, Callum Peters went on to claim a silver medal in the men’s middleweight class. Convincingly winning his way to a spot in the gold medal bout, Peters was cruelly denied the position at the top of the podium after a split decision ruled in favour of his Scottish opponent Sam Hickey.

Wiradjuri woman and forward for the Australian women’s hockey team Mariah Williams rounded out the debutant medallists at the Games with a silver medal after a narrow loss in the final to the host nation England.

The other debutant athletes certainly didn’t disappoint; Wiradjuri teenagers Ruby Storm (swimming) and Indiana Cooper (athletics) both made it to the finals of their respective events, while boxer Alex Winwood (Noongar) was unlucky to lose his quarterfinal bout after he was deemed to be knocked out in the second round.

No steps backwards for returning athletes

In the beach volleyball competition, Wulli Wulli-Goreng Goreng woman Taliqua Clancy paired up with Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games partner Mariafe Artacho del Solar for a shot at redemption following their gold medal match loss to the Canadians at the previous Games.

Sweeping through the group stage without dropping a set put the duo in a strong position, and they set up a rematch with Canada in the gold medal match. Clancy was unable to join the exclusive club of First Nations Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes to win a gold medal as she and Mariafe went down two sets to one. With this, she did become just the seventh Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to win multiple medals at the Commonwealth Games.

Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Team Australia pose on the podium during the Women's Beach Volleyball - Medal ceremony
Mariafe Artacho del Solar and Taliqua Clancy of Team Australia pose on the podium during the Women's Beach Volleyball - Medal ceremony

Birmingham 2022 also saw the returns of rugby 7s back Maurice Longbottom and weightlifter Brandon Wakeling. Longbottom, a Dharawal man, was the only member of the Gold Coast 2018 sevens squad that returned for the 2022 Games. Scoring a try in the opening game, he helped his team through to the bronze medal match against rivals New Zealand, who got the better of the Australian team to secure the bottom step of the podium, thereby relegating the Aussies to fourth.

Wonnarua man Wakeling returned in a higher weight class trying to better his seventh-place finish from 2018. Competing in the men’s 73kg division, he ultimately finished his competition in fifth.

With storied athletes such as Percy Hobson, Cathy Freeman OAM, Nova Peris OAM and more creating some of the most iconic moments in sporting history, we look forward to continuing to share the passion, pride, and history of our athletes’ achievements past, present, and future.



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