Sports Letter: Pilger is wide of the mark

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The Independent Online
Sir: Chris Maume's review of the John Pilger documentary Welcome to Australia (Sport on TV, 4 September) presented an out-of-date and inaccurate view of Australia's indigenous peoples, including their opportunities and achievements in sport.

For much of the programme, Mr Pilger focused on claims of discrimination against Aboriginal sports people dating back more than a century and implied that the situation is much the same today. Mr Maume's uncritical review reflected Mr Pilger's assertions. In the field of sport alone, a variety of significant Commonwealth Government programmes to assist indigenous sports people were dismissed in a couple of throw-away and misleading sentences. For example, the Australian Sports Commission manages a special scholarship programme which offers 21 Olympic bursaries, 100 for other sports and another 500 for indigenous athletes in remote areas.

Apart from champion athlete Cathy Freeman, Pilger virtually ignored many other current indigenous sporting heroes such as the athlete Patrick Johnson, Australia's No 2 sprinter; Kyle Vander-Kuyp, the national 110m hurdling champion; Nova Peris-Kneebone, who won an Olympic gold as part of the Australian women's hockey team in Atlanta and is still one of Australia's top sprinters; and the many Aboriginal players who have made, and continue to make, major contributions in the various codes of football in Australia.

It is a great pity that genuine sporting advances made in recent years among Australia's indigenous athletes were so glibly dismissed by John Pilger's programme to provide such a bleak, outdated and distorted picture to British viewers.

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