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Former Senator & the First Aboriginal Australian to win Olympic Gold



Nova Peris OAM OLY MAICD was Australia's first Aboriginal woman elected to the Federal Parliament and the first Aboriginal Australian and Northern Territorian to win an Olympic Gold Medal.

She is one of a very few athletes who have represented their country in two different sports; hockey and athletics in separate Olympic Games. She is the only person in the entire world to make back-to-back Summer Olympic Games finals in two different sports.

Nova was recently inducted into the Australian Sports Hall of Fame in the Multisport Category. She is the first woman inducted in this category and one of only nine First Nations Athletes to be honoured in the Hall of Fame.

Nova has also completed her Institute of Company Directors course, adding MAICD credentials to her name.

Current work:

Nova was recently honoured with a statue in Melbourne's Federation Square, designed and sculpted by internationally renowned artists Gillie and Marc as part of their Statues for Equality' project, which seeks to promote and educate on racial and gender equality

Nova was also given another unique and outstanding honour when asked to name and act as official sponsor for the Royal Australian Navy's newly launched ship: NUSHIP Arafura, the first of the Navy's new Offshore Patrol Vessels which will be primarily responsible for protecting Australia's northern maritime borders. Nova, who was nominated to name the vessel by the Federal Government and the Royal Australian Navy, chose Arafura after the sea, in the significance of her cultural ties to the area. She is the commissioning lady for the lifespan of the ship.

Despite the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, she also established the Nova Peris Foundation to support communities to be self-determining. It has been registered with the Australian Charities and not-for-profit commission as a charity of the subtype benevolent institution. It has been endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as a tax concession charity and deductible gift recipient. The Foundation has already partnered with two key organisations: Food Ladder and the Aboriginal Investment Group, and one of the intended purposes of the Foundation is to implement micro business enterprises and food sovereignty technology systems to provide social and economic pathways for remote employment and social benefits in Aboriginal communities. The custom-designed greenhouses provide a secure food source that can withstand volatile weather. Producing an abundance of nutritious food will also enable the community to create a circular economy, further enabling community development.

Nova also helped lead the fight to free the Aboriginal flag', which was finally realised recently.

She also played an important role in helping to establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sports Hall of Fame, located at the Essendon Football Club, which opened in conjunction with Essendon and Paralympics Australia in 2021.

Nova is an advisor to the Australian Olympic Committee and a member of the Olympic reconciliation committee. In these roles, she is heavily involved in amending the Olympic constitution to recognise First Nations peoples appropriately. She was also heavily involved in changing the Olympic Oath and the Olympic Apparel to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Nova is also an advisor to Australian Sports Commission in the high-performance strategy for the 2032 Olympics.

Nova's body of work over decades is unparalleled; on many occasions, she has proven a trailblazer.

Previous experience:

The Northern Territorian, born in Darwin in 1971, survived Cyclone Tracy in 1974, was an outstanding talent as a hockey player.

Olympics: She became the first Aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal when she was a member of the victorious Hockeyroos in Atlanta in 1996. She also became the first mother to be a gold medalist for Australia since Shirley Strickland in 1956. Peris was later appointed Vice President of Northern Territory Hockey.

After the team's Atlanta success, Peris made a decision to turn her remarkable talents to athletics. She excelled on the track, winning the 200m and 4x100m gold medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur before the climax of her athletics career: a return to the Olympics in Sydney, where she reached the semi-finals of the 400m and was a member of Australia's 4 x 400m relay team, which placed fifth. She spent a week with the great Muhammad Ali on his visit to Australia.

Peris' twin achievements - being the first Aboriginal Olympic champion and achieving in two different sports at Olympic level - marks her as one of Australia's finest athletes. Nova is still ranked in the Australian All Time top 10 for the 100m, 200m and 400m. She was a semi-finalist in the 400m at the Sydney Olympics and her 51.28s quarter-final run was a Personal Best.

Olympic Torch: On the 8th of June 2000, Peris was the first Australian to run with the Sydney 2000 torch on home soil. After being passed through the hands of Aboriginal elders, she ran a stretch around Uluru with her 10-year-old daughter Jessica, before passing the torch to Ernie Dingo.

Advocacy: Pride in her Aboriginal identity is a vital ingredient in the ultimate success story that Peris has become. She inspires other Aboriginal people to take pride in who they are, but she also works hard at changing attitudes throughout the Australian community.

Peris has fought for Aboriginal people to have a better life and to heal Australian society in many ways. As a treaty ambassador for the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), she has traveled around the country, campaigning for a treaty between black and white so that a fundamental understanding between two groups can be forged. Peris has also been appointed to roles that include International Indigenous Human Rights Ambassador - repatriation of human remains at Manchester UK Museum and National Ambassador for Reconciliation Australia.

Peris has actively participated in promotional and advocacy campaigns for domestic violence, youth, depression, youth suicide. She is a former Board Member and National Patron for Beyond Blue. She has served as the International Ambassador for World Health Organisation and Griffith University Youth Suicide Prevention and International Ambassador for 'Hepatitis Australia' - 'World Hepatitis Day'.

Politics: On 7 September 2013, Nova Peris became Australia's first Aboriginal woman elected to Federal Parliament as a Senator for the Northern Territory. During her time in Parliament she was a member of several Senate Committees and inquiries, including the Education and Employment References Committee, Finance and Public Administration Legislation and References Committees and the Senate Community Affairs Legislation and References Committees. Peris resigned in 2016, ahead of the elections after serving out her term, to spend more time with her kids including coaching her son in Athletics who is now an Australian champion and Victorian record holder.

Awards & Recognition: Nova Peris was awarded Young Australian of the Year in January 1997, she received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in January 1997 and the Australian Sports Medal in June 2000. She is also acknowledged in the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island Hall of Fame.

Peris was a subject for the Archibald prize, appearing in a stunning portrait by Aboriginal artist Jandamarra Cadd. He is also painting her portrait as the First Aboriginal woman in Federal Politics. This work will be unveiled later in the year to hang permanently in Parliament House, Canberra.

In 2018, Nova received an Australian Award for Excellence in Women's Leadership from Women & Leadership Australia.

Media: Nova appeared on reality television show Australian Survivor, filmed in Fiji.

Author: Nova has written an autobiography Nova - My Story' and another book Nova - Finding My Voice' that includes a selection of her favourite speeches, including some she made in Federal Parliament.

Extremely warm and personable... Mixed well with both staff and students... She spoke extremely well... Great solid messages of positivity... Fantastic Aboriginal role model... Understated her achievements in a most endearing way but she has obviously achieved so much. Mareeba State High School
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