Modern culture is not comfortable with warrior energy especially Aboriginal Warrior energy. When an Aboriginal Australian says “No” they invite public anxiety because everything is not okay in AUS.
Every great civilization has its warrior tradition. The Spartans were known for the legendary defense of their homeland. The Japanese revered their Samurai warriors and the Zula fought Imperialism bravely. Australia’s very own Russel Crow played the hero General Maximus, in the movie block buster Gladiator. Today the warrior archetype lives on in a new form. Proud indigenous athletes standing firm-footed in the storm of public criticism led by shock jocks, remind us that Australia still has a long way to go in stamping out racism.
The devastation done during the frontier-wars has left a shameful legacy of powerlessness for the first Australians. Indigenous youth in detention, ongoing racial vilification, poor academic, social and health outcomes for Australia’s poorest people.
Cathy Freeman (Track) had the courage to run with the indigenous flag after winning the 1994 Commonwealth Games amidst public controversy, because she was proud to have represented Australia and her Aboriginality.
Nova Peris (Hockey) owned her Aboriginality wearing indigenous inspired clothing at her parliamentary induction only to leave parliament exhausted from the relentless racial hatred directed towards her.
Nicky Winmar and Adam Goodes (AFL) stood firm despite the backlash they received for not tolerating racism on the football field.
Anthony Mundane (NRL, Boxing) last week refused to stand for a national anthem that fails to recognise the traditional owners of this magnificent country.
I could add to the debate on the curious result of Anthony Mundine’s final boxing match against Danny Green. By Green’s own admission on talk-back radio the match-up was “much closer” than the score line. It raises questions, not the least being how a subjective judgement has been allowed to determine a sporting outcome with a discrepancy so marked? Had it been a diving or gymnastics score it would have been eliminated as an outlier. Questions aside I want to share with you the Anthony Mundine I had the privilege of interviewing for my book “Wired to Play: The Metacognitive Athlete” in 2015.
“The Man” is so much more than the controversial sporting figure presented in the media. Perhaps he has not always expressed himself well, but his heart is bigger, his courage is greater, and his insight is broader than any description written about him. Mundine is proud of his sporting prowess and success, but more importantly is his role as a protector of his family and his people.
Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates, got it right when he said at the “Wired to Play” launch that Mundine was, “a credit to his family and the nation”.
It takes real courage to speak out against public opinion, to not stand for a national anthem that you believe doesn’t represent your people. To give away large sums of your own earnings to help your people. To take the time to connect with the down hearted and broken because he really cares. If Mundine didn’t care he would stay silent and sit on his wealth, instead he continues to break that silence and keeps fighting-the-fight for the most vulnerable. Like his athlete peers, sport has been the vehicle that has given him a voice. In ‘Wired to Play” Mundine said,
"I believe we are stronger as a people, versus doing it on our own, it is too hard. If I travel with another brother or two or three, we confide in each other, we keep it positive and work to get what we want from the situation. This is who our people are, this is what we do. We help each other."
I have lived with and worked with many of the world’s very best athletes, many are impressive contributors to society but none more so than Mundine. I know when he says he is done with competitive boxing, he is done. The match against Green wasn’t some soap opera setting up for a sequel, Mundine has far too much pride to play that game. He also knows that another fight in the boxing ring isn’t what his people need. There is so much work to be done to heal the devastating impact European Australia has on indigenous culture. A culture that cared for and nurtured this magnificent country for tens of thousands of years. A people who put family and community before money, power and prestige. People who were historically killed on mass, had their children and lands stolen, their language and culture all but extinguished.
So Mundine speaks out and will continue to do so because someone has to. He will leave competitive boxing and continue to help his people. The social focus on gender equity and anti-domestic violence is important. I wonder why, however, we aren’t reading more about the good the men, the men like Mundine. Mundine doesn’t drink, smoke or gamble and gives to his people, yet has to suffer the indignation of news headlines meant to humiliate such as, “Mundane Blows Millions”, because he has given so much of his money to help those less fortunate. Imagine if our wealthy gave away their personal income in an equivalent manner. Imagine if our politicians relinquish their “entitlements” and contributed them to strengthen grassroots communities, not with tax payer’s money but their own personal income? They don’t, but Mundine has and does and that is what makes him “The Man”, a protector of his people.
Gayelene Clews is a Performance Psychologist and author of “Wired to Play: The Metacognitive Athlete”. The former World Number One Triathlete has worked with many of the very best athletes and sporting teams in the world including Olympic and World Champions. Clews applies the science of sport to her successful “Wired for Success” business workshops for emotionally intelligent organisations. Her work has been widely reviewed by The Australian, Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Canberra Times, ABC Lateline, COMPASS, ABC radio and many others. Contact Gayelene via firstname.lastname@example.org. To purchase her book www.wiredtoplay.com.