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Cathy Freeman

Key points

  • Cathy Freeman was born in Queensland on 16 February, 1973.
  • Cathy became involved in athletics at a very young age and won her first race at eight years old.
  • During her 2000 Olympic Games victory lap in the 400 metre sprint she carried both the Australian and Aboriginal flags — a symbol of reconciliation and pride in her Aboriginal cultural heritage.
  • Cathy has received numerous awards including the Olympic Order for Sportswoman of the Year in 2001 and was named Australian of the Year in 1998.

Cathy Freeman was born in Mackay (Queensland) on 16 February, 1973. Her mother is of the Kuku Yalanji people of far north Queensland and along with Cathy’s grandmother was born in the Indigenous community of Palm Island. Cathy’s father was born in Woorabinda and is of the Burri Gubba people of central Queensland.

Cathy became involved in athletics at a very young age. When she won her first race at eight years old, Cathy claims that she was ‘hooked’ on running. At fourteen, Cathy told her vocational officer that her only career goal was to win an Olympic medal. By then, she had already won national titles in high jump, and the 100, 200 and 400 metre sprints. She won her first gold medal in the 4 by 100 metre relay at the 1990 Commonwealth Games when she was just sixteen years old.

At the 1994, Commonwealth Games Cathy caused controversy by carrying the Aboriginal flag as well as the Australian national flag during her victory lap of the 200 metres sprint. At that time the flag was not recognised as an official Australian flag.

When Cathy won the gold medal in the 400 metre sprint at the 2000 Olympic Games, this very same act was seen as a moment for the nation, symbolising the Australian people’s desire for reconciliation and pride in her Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Somewhere deep inside, I’d absorbed all the pain and suffering my people had endured and turned it into a source of strength. — Cathy Freeman

Throughout her athletic career Cathy has received numerous awards including the Olympic Order for Sportswoman of the Year in 2001, and was named Australian of the Year in 1998.

Following her retirement in 2003, Cathy pursued interests important to her especially those related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

She has been involved with a number of charities and community activities including Cottage by the Sea and the Cathy Freeman Foundation.

Did you know?

The Aboriginal flag

The Aboriginal flag is legally recognised as an official flag of Australia

Learn more