01 June 2016
'I'm Aboriginal, I'm Australian, I'm proud to be both. And I've even got some Irish in me, so I'm proud of that too.'
Kyle Vander Kuyp is an Australian athletic champion and a descendent of the Yuin clan of south coast New South Wales and the Worimi of north coast New South Wales.
Kyle gave a moving presentation to Brotherhood staff on 26 May to mark National Sorry Day, an Australia-wide observance which acknowledges the nation's Stolen Generations. He spoke about the challenges he faced on his way to becoming a world-class athlete, and the sense of accomplishment in achieving several career milestones – competing at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, as well as the 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2006 Commonwealth Games. He still holds the Australian record for the 110m hurdles.
'It was a dream come true to make an Olympic final,' he said.
During audience question time, those gathered were particularly interested in an inside perspective of life in the Olympic village, and Kyle’s anecdotes were surprising and funny. For example, one night he heard a Run DMC song playing loudly as he passed a village night club, and thought he would just pop in for a moment because he loved the band. When he entered he was amazed to see it was the actual band, playing live. Mustering all of his athlete’s discipline, he resisted the strong urge to stay and enjoy the music, so he could get to the rest his body needed to compete the next day.
These days Kyle dedicates a great deal of time as a mentor for young Indigenous people, and is an ambassador for Red Dust Role Models and beyondblue. He said he relishes the chance to get out into the community, and spoke about his desire to nurture young track and field athletes.
‘It's really great to help young people to believe in themselves,’ he said. ‘It's great to hear people's stories. I don't think my story is that special, but yeah, it's nice to share it.’
Some of the most moving parts of Kyle’s presentation were about his family. He spoke about reconnecting with his birth mother in 2004, and his desire to find his biological father. The applause for Kyle at the end of the presentation was heartfelt. Thank you Kyle for sharing your story - it will stay with us.
And in Jane Austen territory... twitter.com/kenloachsixtee…
Acknowledgement of country
The Brotherhood of St Laurence acknowledges and recognises the Traditional Owners of the land upon which we live and work, and we pay our respects to their Elders both past and present.