Cultural Advisory

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this resource contains a range of material which may be considered culturally sensitive, including the images and records of people who have passed away.

Some material in our collections contains terms that reflect author’s views, or those of the period in which the item was written or recorded but may not be considered appropriate today. These views are not necessarily the views of the National Library of Australia. While the information may not reflect current understanding, it is provided in an historical context.

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First Nations athletes have been involved in some of our most triumphant moments in sport and continue to make a significant contribution to our nation’s sport at all levels.

Here you can find some select examples of First Nations sporting greats.

All-Aboriginal cricket side of 1868  

Image of first Aboriginal Australian cricket team

In 1868, an all-Aboriginal cricket side was the first Australian sporting team of any kind to tour overseas. All of the players in the team were Aboriginal men from western Victoria.

The team played 47 matches over four months, winning 14 games, losing 14, and drawing 19. 

To find out more search our catalogue with keywords and/or try the subject heading

Cricket players, Aboriginal Australian

Some key works you can start with include:

Lionel Rose MBE Gunditjmara

Lionel Rose, Aboriginal Australian boxer

In the late 1960s, Lionel Rose became the first Indigenous Australian to win a world title and be recognized as Australian of the Year. At a time when Indigenous Australians were just starting to find a voice, his success spoke volumes.

Huge crowds greeted 19-year-old Lionel Rose on his return to Melbourne, after he unexpectedly defeated the world bantamweight champion ‘Fighting’ Harada in Tokyo. No Australian sporting star had ever been afforded such a welcome home. 

The Library holds a range of material relating to Lionel Rose which you can find searching our catalogue with the subject heading Rose, Lionel, 1948-2011 , including:

Lionel Rose and Jenny Rose interviewed by Rob Willis for the Sport oral history project [sound recording] which is freely available to listen online.

Cathy Freeman Kuku Yalanji | Birra Gubba 

Cathy Freeman running

Cathy Freeman’s name is inseparable from the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she had the dual distinction of lighting the Olympic Flame and winning the gold medal in the women’s 400 metres event. She also won gold medals in the 400 metres at the 1994 and 1998 Commonwealth Games.  

After retiring from athletics, Freeman established the Cathy Freeman Foundation, which is dedicated to improving education opportunities for First Nations children. 

To find items in our collection on Cathy Freeman try searching our catalogue on the subject heading Freeman, Cathy, 1973-   

Evonne Goolagong Cawley AO, MBE, Wiradjuri 

Evonne Goolagong Cawley playing tennis

Evonne Goolagong Cawley is a former No. 1 tennis player and is regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Goolagong Cawley won her first major singles title at the age of 19 at the 1971 French Open and went on to win a total of seven Grand Slam singles titles, including Wimbledon in 1971, 1980 and the Australian Open in 1974 and 1975. 

In addition to her success on the court, Goolagong Cawley is known for her grace, style and sportsmanship, and has been an inspiration to many First Nations Australians, including Ash Barty, AO, a proud Ngarigo woman, who recently retired whilst holding the world No. 1 ranking in women’s singles tennis.

The Library holds printed items, pictures and an oral history interview of Goolagong Cawley. To find items in our collection try searching our catalogue using the subject heading Goolagong, Evonne, 1951 or search on the keywords Cawley Evonne 1951. 

Select websites

National Film and Sound Archive - First Nations Sporting Greats. Shines a light on some of the most triumphant moments in sport by First Nations athletes.

The National Indigenous Sport Foundation  - established in 2020 to inspire and facilitate opportunities for indigenous communities and individuals.

Not sure where to start?