Cathy Freeman has pledged her support to the Yes vote in the upcoming Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum.
The Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medalist in a video for the Yes23 campaign said the landmark referendum is a chance ‘to be part of a moment that brings people together’.
She also urged Australians to ‘stand with me’ when the nation goes to the polls on October 14.
‘I can’t remember a time when change has felt so urgent, where momentum has been so strong. From small towns to big cities, something is in the air. I know all Australians feel it too,’ she says in the video.
Cathy Freeman of Australia celebrates with both Australian and Aboriginal flags after winning the 400 metres final during the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada.
‘We have the chance to be part of a moment that brings people together, to work hard for something that we can all believe in.
‘And right now, each of us can be part of something that really matters.’
Freeman urged her listeners to ‘stand together and show our support to Australians who need it the most’.
She said a Yes vote would recognise ‘Indigenous people in our constitution for the very first time’.
This would ‘give our kids the very best start in life, an equal start in life’.
Her final plea was for all Australians to ‘open our hearts and change our future’ by voting Yes in the referendum on October 14.
Freeman is recognised as an icon of Indigenous sporting achievement, after she captured the hearts of the nation – and the world – during her glittering athletic career.
When the nation cheered her on to the Sydney gold medal a triumphant Freeman draped herself in the Aboriginal flag as she did a victory lap in front of an adoring sold-out arena.
Earlier she was chosen as the final torch bearer to dramatically stride into the stadium and light the cauldron that officially kicked off the Games during the opening ceremony.
Last week she became the first woman in NSW to have grandstand named after her, with the state government announcement at Accor Stadium where she won gold in the 400m final of the Olympic Games 23 years ago.
A grandstand at the Accor Stadium will be renamed the Cathy Freeman Stand
It is the second award for Freeman this year after she was also shortlisted for the Wilderness Society Karajia Award for her children’s book The Heartbeat of the Land
It followed a public nomination process in which people were asked to name a female sporting hero whose name could be attached to the stand.
It is the second award for Freeman this year after she was also shortlisted for the Wilderness Society Karajia Award for her children’s book The Heartbeat of the Land.
Despite the star power that the Yes23 campaign has attracted in support of the Voice, which includes a pantheon of sporting greats and musical figures such as John Farnham, opinion polls have shown the referendum heading for defeat.
The most recent Resolve Political Monitor survey showed just 43 per cent of voters supported a plan to enshrine the Voice into the Constitution, down 20 percentage points from a year ago.
To pass, the referendum needs to get an overall majority of votes approving it and also win a majority of states.
Who is Cathy Freeman?
Born on 16 February 1973 in Mackay, Queensland, Australia, Freeman is a former sprinter who specialised in 400m.
Growing up, she was successful in school athletics events. In 1987, she was coached by her stepfather, Bruce Barber, to various regional and national titles.
She began her career at age 16, when she won gold as part of the 4 x 100m relay team at the Auckland Commonwealth Games.
The win in Auckland made her one of the competition’s youngest competitors and the first Indigenous Australian to win gold.
Freeman went on to scoop three more gold medals at subsequent Commonwealth Games, as well as a silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.
The 50-year-old came first at the World Championships in 1997 in the 400m event and again in 1999.
The biggest moment of her career came at the 2000 Olympics in Australia, where she won gold at the 400m final in 49.11 seconds, becoming only the second Australian Aboriginal Olympic champion.
Freeman also had the honour of lighting the Olympic torch at the games in Sydney.
The biggest moment of her career came at the 2000 Olympics in Australia where she won gold at the 400m final in 49.11 seconds
The former Olympic star retired in 2003 when she realised she would never beat her performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
After an incredible performance at the 2000 Olympics, she eventually called time on her sporting career in 2003.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in 2003, Cathy said her decision to quit sprinting came when she realised she would never beat her performance at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
‘I won’t ever have the same fulfilling moment as I already have had,’ she explained.
‘I don’t have the same hunger. I know what it takes to be a champion, to be the best in the world, and I just don’t have that feeling right now.’
Freeman then created the Cathy Freeman Foundation, an organisation that supports Indigenous students.
She was also an ambassador for the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation until 2012.
In 2014, Cathy stepped down from her position as an ambassador for Cottage by the Sea, a children’s holiday camp in Victoria.
She was in a long-term relationship with her athletics roach Nic Bideau, who helped coach her to gold at the 2000 Olympics after their relationship ended.
Cathy was married to her first husband, Alexander ‘Sandy’ Bodecker, from 1999 to in 2003.
She went on to date actor Joel Edgerton before they split in 2005, and married her second husband, James Murch, in 2009.
They welcomed a daughter, Ruby, in 2011.
Why is she on crutches?
Back in July, Freeman made a surprise visit to the Matildas’ camp ahead of their women’s World Cup – and appeared to be struggling with a painful leg injury.
Players entered what they thought was a tactics meeting with coach Tony Gustavsson – only to be stunned when Freeman limped into the room with the help of a pair of crutches.
Afterwards , Freeman was pictured seated with her left leg elevated.
Freeman suffered an unfortunate accident at home earlier in the year where she ruptured her achilles tendon.
Freeman had to use crutches to get around at the team meeting and was pictured seated with her left leg elevated
What has she said on the stand?
Freeman said she was ‘deeply honoured and humbled’ to be permanently recognised at a stadium that held a special place in her heart.
‘I hope that my story continues to inspire generations of girls and boys to chase their own dreams in sport and life,’ she said.
Premier Chris Minns said it was about time a NSW grandstand was named after a woman and he could not think of a better candidate than the Indigenous sporting star.
‘Everybody remembers where they were when Cathy Freeman produced her historic 400m race to win gold for Australia at the Sydney Olympics,’ he said.
‘I want the next generation of young girls to watch sport at this stadium, looking up at the Cathy Freeman Stand, thinking about their own sporting dreams.’