John Allan, Bridgetown WA, July 2021
I always associated Wimbledon with school summer holidays.
I never played tennis. There was what I assumed an ancient tennis racket hanging up in my Dad’s garage (it could have been a snow shoe come to think of it.).
We would dislodge it from it’s rusty nail and blow off the cobwebs.
As there was only one (from a one legged Inuit perhaps ?) we were more likely to use it in our improvised interpretation of rounders than tennis. It was also too heavy to lift above our heads (unleashing the huskies might have helped !)
Tennis wasn’t for the likes of us anyway. It was for posh Laurel Bank girls called Catriona and Ffiona who wouldn’t look at comprehensive school adolescent boys sideways. There was a tennis club hidden in a leafy lane near Bearsden Cross but they would set the dogs on you if they thought you were an outsider from Courthill or Castlehill.
Tennis was the telly for us so in the summer in 1971 I sat there watching as two Australians were competing in the Wimbledon ladies final.
One was the dour faced Margaret Court (now Pentecostal minister and public homophobe) and the other, 19 year old Aboriginal girl Evonne Goolagong.
I wasn’t sure what an ‘Aboriginal’ was back then but I thought she looked quite cute and I must admit, had a bit of a teenage crush on her. The rest is history and ‘my girl’ took the trophy.
She was prominent in finals and semifinals for the rest of the decade and won her second Wimbledon in 1980.
Six years later I was to land in the country of Ms Goolagong’s ancestors and I’ve lived here ever since.
This week Australians celebrate NAIDOC. For those of you north of Darwin, it stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. It has its roots in the 1938 Day of Mourning, becoming a week long event in 1975. If I was cynical I would say it’s a week were privileged white folk pretend to be concerned about the plight of the first nations’ people and then ignore their issues for the next 51 weeks but the official line is it celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island peoples.
It’s fitting that Ash Barty, a proud Ngaragu woman should pick up the mantle from Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a proud Wikadjuri woman, some fifty years later.
……….and haven’t snow shoes improved over the last half century !
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Nice piece, John and very poignant. Cathy Freeman did her people proud too, remember, in the 400m at both Olympics and World Champs..