Arts and Sports

I spoke in parliament yesterday about the role of community arts organisations, and the importance of local sporting clubs. Both speeches are below.
Arts, 24 February 2011

Amidst the hurly-burly of busy lives, it is sometimes easy to forget the transcendent power of the arts. Great art can inspire us and remind us of what truly matters in our lives. It can take us to new places and evoke strong emotions. The work of Fred Williams and Arthur Boyd, Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and Sidney Nolan can be truly breathtaking. For artists, producing artworks can bring enormous pleasure and fulfilment.

On the north side of Lake Burley Griffin, there are a plethora of hardworking artists and small art galleries. These include Craft ACT, Craft and Design Centre, the Canberra Museum and Gallery, the ANU School of Art Gallery, the Watson Arts Centre, the Chisholm Street Gallery, the Helen Maxwell Gallery, the Canberra Contemporary Art Space, the Australian National Capital Artists, Megalo Print Studio and Gallery, the Strathnairn Homestead Gallery, the Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery, Aarwun Gallery, the Graham Charlton Studio Gallery and the Belconnen Arts Centre. And apparently there is even some good art displayed on the south side of the lake.

I am proud to have in the public gallery today my mother-in-law, Anna Marie Newman. She is here with my father-in-law, Robert Newman. Anna Marie is a talented and prolific artist, and the ‘critters’ she makes bring great joy to and admiration from others. I want to pay tribute to her and to all the artists and craftspeople whose work enriches our lives.

Sports in Canberra, 24 February 2011

Canberra is the sportiest city in Australia. We are not just the national capital, the cultural capital and the research capital but also the sporting capital. At the last Commonwealth Games Anna Flanagan, Alicia Coutts, Ellie Cole and Luke Adams, amongst many others, continued a proud tradition which saw Canberrans at the Games bring home more medals than those of any other Australian city. Admittedly, having the Australian Institute of Sport tucked away in the suburb of Bruce, in my electorate, does provide a little help.

We are all familiar with the dent in the national pride at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games which led to the opening of the AIS, in 1981. Since that the time the AIS has become a world renowned institute, the envy of the nations of the world for the sporting supremacy which it has helped Australia achieve, so much so that other nations around the world have started to replicate the AIS model, including the United Kingdom, which hopes to overtake us in the medal tally at the 2012 London Games—though, of course, we know the Aussies will prevail in the end. But, as the folks at the AIS remind us, the race for sporting supremacy has no end. It is an ongoing pursuit.

The AIS is not all sports: it is a community, a support network and a family. This shrine of sporting excellence fosters and develops the sporting talents of our young athletes as well as their education. A myriad people—from coaches and training squads, house parents, athletes’ own parents, massage therapists, sport psychologists, sport scientists and administrative staff to chefs—deserve our thanks for their efforts. This professionalism of the sporting talent at the AIS is complemented by the sporting enthusiasm of Canberrans. Whether it is cheering the Raiders, the Capitals, the Brumbies, Canberra United, the Comets, the Canberra Strikers or the Lakers—at the national level—or the Magpies, Ainslie, Eastlake, the Gungahlin Reds, Bel West, Majura Football, Ginninderra Tigers or any of the many other proud local sporting teams, our city loves sports. But we do not just like to watch; we love to strap on the boots and have a go. More Canberrans participate in sports than those of any other state or territory in Australia. Thirty-six per cent of Canberrans participate in sports, with the Australian average being just 27 per cent.

But sport is more than just a game. Our sporting teams are made up of people who are members of our community. For all the negative headlines about sportspeople, there are so many more unwritten stories about the role models, the heroes and the community service.

Sport is a great egalitarian pursuit, a social tool that helps us fight prejudice in our society and understand one another. Late last year, I hosted a gathering of officials from the many sporting teams in my electorate. Among those who attended was John Gunn from Multicultural Youth Services ACT. A few weeks previously, when I visited the MYS to see some of the young refugees in Canberra and the support that MYS was providing them, John told me how sports helped the young kids settle in and how great they were at it. He was astounded not only by their ability but by the happiness it brought, and he just wished there were some way he could get them into the local teams.

At my office, amongst the discussions of successes and challenges faced by the various teams and codes present, John rose to tell the group about the refugees at MYS. Straight afterwards, one of the group, a coach from Gungahlin, piped up: ‘No problem, mate. Send us the names. We’ll give them a pair of boots and a jersey and see how they go.’ He added: ‘After all, North Melbourne just picked Majak Daw as a rookie, the first African migrant to play AFL and someone who came here as a refugee. Who knows, we might have a couple of Majaks here.’

Sport in our nation is not just about the medals or the trophies; it is about much more. Our love affair with sport is about more than the entertainment. We love it because of the opportunities it gives our kids, the contribution sport gives back to the local community and the escape it provides. But we also love it because, on the sporting field, prejudice disappears. All are equal on the field. The team is our team. We all become mates, whether we know the supporter next to us or not. This is why sports give our nation so much pride.

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.