Cathy Freeman’s career in athletics began when she was just five years old. By the age of 16, she became the first Indigenous Australian to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Freeman quickly captured the hearts and minds of an entire generation, becoming an icon and symbol of national unity in Australia.
When it was announced that Sydney would host the 2000 Olympics, the entire country knew Freeman had a real chance of becoming the first Indigenous Australian to win an Athletics medal at the games.She was even handed the ultimate honour of lighting the stadium’s Olympic flame to open the summer games.
With the high hopes of the Australian public resting on her performance, Freeman didn’t disappoint. At the women’s 400-meter sprint, Freeman crossed the finish line in first place, sinking to her knees with joy and disbelief.
Holding both the Indigenous Australian and national Australian flags high, she proudly took her victory lap, disregarding the fact that unofficial flags were banned from the Olympic Games.
This evocative moment was seen as a triumph for the Indigenous Australian people, and Freeman soon became a symbol of reconciliation and unity.