Former Olympian, Politician & Keynote Speaker
Nova Peris OAM was the first Aboriginal Australian to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games and Australia's first indigenous woman elected to federal parliament. A former Senator for the Northern Territory, Nova is a staunch campaigner for indigenous rights and reconciliation in Australia.
Nova Peris is one of a very few athletes who have represented their country in two different sports; hockey & athletics, and separate Olympic Games.
The Northern Territorian, born in Darwin in 1971, was an outstanding talent as a hockey player, with her pace, agility and attacking skills making her a distinguished player on the international stage.
She became the first indigenous 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 medallist for Australia since Shirley Strickland in 1956.
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 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.
On the 8th of June 2000 Nova 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 to Ernie Dingo.
Nova's twin achievements, being our first indigenous Olympic champion and achieving in two different sports at Olympic level, marks her as one of our finest athletes. In 2014, Nova was 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.
Pride in her Aboriginal identity is a vital ingredient in the ultimate success story that Nova 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.
Nova has fought for Aboriginals 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 travelled around the country, campaigning for a treaty between black and white so that a fundamental understanding between two groups can be forged.
On 7 September 2013, Nova Peris became Australia's first indigenous woman elected to federal parliament. Nova resigned in 2016, ahead of the elections.
Nova Peris was awarded Young Australian of the Year in January 1997, she received the Medal of the Order of Australia in January 1997 and the Australian Sports Medal in June 2000.
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.