Nova Peris OAM
Former Olympian Gold Medallist, Federal Senator and Principal Adviser, Sport & Recreation Participation
2018 Northern Territory Award Winner
Nova Peris OAM OLY was Australia's first Aboriginal woman elected to Federal Parliament and the first Aboriginal Australian and Northern Territorian to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
A former Senator for the Northern Territory, Nova Peris is a passionate campaigner for Aboriginal rights and reconciliation in Australia. She has also actively campaigned on issues of mental and physical health.
Drawing from her unique experiences in sport, in government and as a leader within Australia's Aboriginal community, Nova Peris inspires people of diverse ages, backgrounds and sectors.
Nova Peris is one of a very few athletes who have represented their country in two different sports, hockey and athletics, and separate Olympic Games. She is the only person in the entire world to make back to back Summer Olympic finals in two different sports!
Nova Peris was born in Darwin in 1971 and survived Cyclone Tracy in 1974. She was an outstanding talent as a hockey player, with her pace, agility and attacking skills making her a distinguished player on the international stage.
She became the first Aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal when she was a member of the victorious Hockeyroos in Atlanta in 1996. She also became the first mother to be a gold medallist for Australia since Shirley Strickland in 1956. Nova Peris was later appointed to the role of Vice President of Northern Territory Hockey.
After the team's Atlanta success, Nova Peris made a decision to turn her remarkable talents to athletics. She excelled on the track, winning the 200m and 4x100m gold medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur before the climax of her athletics career: a return to the Olympics in Sydney, where she reached the semi-finals of the 400m and was a member of Australia's 4 x 400m relay team, which placed fifth.
On the 8th of June 2000 Nova Peris was the first Australian to run with the Sydney 2000 torch on home soil. After being passed through the hands of Aboriginal elders, she ran a stretch around Uluru with her 10-year-old daughter Jessica before passing to Ernie Dingo.
Nova Peris' twin achievements, being our first Aboriginal Olympic champion and achieving in two different sports at Olympic level, mark her as one of our finest athletes. In 2014, Nova Peris was still ranked in the Australian All Time top 10 for the 100m, 200m and 400m. She was a semi-finalist in the 400m at the Sydney Olympics and her 51.28s quarter-final run was a Personal Best.
Pride in her Aboriginal identity is a vital ingredient in the ultimate success story that Nova Peris has become. She inspires other Aboriginal people to take pride in who they are, but she also works hard at changing attitudes throughout the Australian community.
Nova Peris has fought for Aboriginal people to have a better life and to heal Australian society in many ways. As a treaty ambassador for the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), she has travelled around the country, campaigning for a treaty between black and white so that a fundamental understanding between two groups can be forged. Nova Peris has also been appointed to roles that include International Indigenous Human Rights Ambassador - repatriation of human remains at Manchester UK Museum and National Ambassador for Reconciliation Australia.
Nova Peris has actively participated in promotional and advocacy campaigns for youth and for the prevention of domestic violence, depression and youth suicide. She is a former Board Member and National Patron for beyondblue. She has served as the International Ambassador for the World Health Organisation and Griffith University Youth Suicide Prevention and International Ambassador for 'Hepatitis Australia' - 'World Hepatitis Day'.
On 7 September 2013, Nova Peris became Australia's first Aboriginal woman elected to Federal Parliament and during her time in Parliament she was a member of several Senate Committees and inquiries, including the Education and Employment References Committee; Finance and Public Administration: Legislation and References Committees; and the Senate Community Affairs: Legislation and References Committees. Nova resigned in 2016, ahead of the elections after serving out her term.
Nova Peris was awarded Young Australian of the Year in January 1997. She received the Medal of the Order of Australia in January 1997 and the Australian Sports Medal in June 2000. She is acknowledged in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hall of Fame and has written an autobiography Nova - My Story.