On Friday the 8th of May I was fortunate to be invited to emcee the 2015 Hockey Victoria Women’s and Girls Breakfast: Dare to Dream.
Guest Speaker Senator Nova Peris shared her experience in hockey, athletics, politics, and life to an audience of around 200 members of the hockey community. Senator Peris began by sharing the history of hardship in her family: her grandmother was part of the stolen generation, and her mother was separated from her grandmother at birth. She has drawn inspiration from the strength and resilience of those around her.
A keen sports woman and self-confessed tomboy at a young age, Senator Peris was involved in hockey and athletics from a young age. She was often captured in the local paper for her accolades in hockey, with articles citing her at a young age heralding Senator Peris as the next Hockeyroo. Senator Peris also held this dream, and did whatever she could to achieve those goals. When her mother told her she couldn’t afford to pay for her to play for the NT state team, Senator Peris worked to fund her expenses in tournaments, washing windows and doing anything needed to achieve her dream. When she was successful in making the Northern Territory U18 team, Senator Peris’ drive to achieve didn’t end there. While most people would become complacent, Senator Peris did all that she could to improve her game, including riding her bike 20kms to work to get extra fitness.
The hard work payed off, and in 1992, Senator Peris was invited to represent Australia in the Under 21 tournament in New Zealand. The excitement of being part of the team soon wore off when, to her dismay, Senator Peris walked into the change rooms to find herself on the bench for the first game. Disappointing, but she wasn’t ready to give up yet. The second game of the tournament had a similar story, with Senator Peris again excluded from the starting line-up. It wasn’t until the second half of Australia’s second game when the coach told Senator Peris to warm up, that the opportunity arose for her to prove her worth as part of the team. Within two minutes of being on the field, Senator Peris had scored her first goal representing Australia. She ended up walking away from the tournament holding the trophy for top goal scorer (with two goals in total).
Senator Peris had a successful career in both the Australian women’s hockey team and as an athlete in the Australian athletics team. She was a double gold medallist at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, winning the 200m sprint and sharing in Australia’s 4x100m relay win. Senator Peris remains the only person in the world to make back to back summer Olympic finals in two different sports, and in 1997 was named Young Australian of the Year and awarded an Order of Australia.
While Senator Peris’ story has a lot of success, she acknowledged she faced many hardships. A single mother at aged 19, she realised she had to work harder to ensure selectors didn’t have a reason not to pick her for the Australian team. Her ambition and drive is inspiring, and her key message to the audience was to dream. For in every situation you are in, both in hockey and in life, there is an opportunity to succeed – you’ve just got to make the most of each experience, and maximise every opportunity you have. Hard work is crucial. According to Senator Peris, what distinguishes good hockey players from great hockey players is what you do when you need to pick yourself up from a bad situation. While hockey is a team sport, Senator Peris attributes her achievements to individual effort, resilience, and willingness to succeed.
The young Aboriginal girl from the Northern Territory dared to dream, and has a multitude of achievements in hockey, athletics, and now in politics. It begs the question: you dare to dream, what can you achieve?