One of the major goals for next year’s Commonwealth Games is to engage with Australia’s first nations people. But some Indigenous leaders are doubtful of the government’s commitment to reconciliation.

Elisabeth Moss reports.


It’s hard to imagine Australian sport without athletes like Cathy Freeman, Jonathan Thurston and Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

But acknowledgement of the First Nations people at the 1982 Commonwealth Games was lacking.

For the Gold Coast games, organisers have developed a Reconciliation Action Plan to engage with the Indigenous community.

Kate Jones, Minister for the Commonwealth Games: “I think it’s impossible to host the Commonwealth Games without having a genuine conversation about reconciliation in our community both on the Gold Coast and in Queensland.”

The plan was developed with an advisory group of elders from the Yugambeh tribe on the Gold Coast.

It aims to bring greater awareness to Aboriginal and Torres Islander language, culture and heritage.

It’s the first time any Commonwealth Games has had such a plan.

Kate Jones, Minister for the Commonwealth Games: “It was also the first time a traditional owner or a First Nation’s person spoke at Buckingham Palace at the handing over of the baton from Queen Elizabeth to the host city.”

For many in the Indigenous community, it’s a step in the right direction.

Wayne Coolwell, President, Indigenous Sports Queensland: “I think they’re trying as hard as they can and I think like a lot of governments around Australia, at least they acknowledge the traditional owners, at least they’re saying that they’ve got to make an effort to engage with the Indigenous community.”

But some think the acknowledgement is just another political gesture.

Vox 1: “It’s really hard to know what their intentions are or if it is just really something that’s gonna be high profile.”

The issue for Commonwealth Games organisers is how to achieve reconcilation over the long term.

Wayne Coolwell, President, Indigenous Sports Queensland: “My angst has always been what happens after this event finishes. So what I say to the government is, you know it’s lovely to take all the kudos when you tick the box on a big event like the Commonwealth Games, but make sure that after it’s over, you’ve got the kids involved in sport, healthy minds healthy bodies. That they continue to get involved in that sort of stuff.”

It’s hoped that future host countries will follow in Australia’s lead, and recognise the contribution of their First Nations people.

Elisabeth Moss, QUT News.