Location: Fed Square, Naarm
Artist: Gillie and Marc
Nova Maree Peris OAM (born 25 February 1971) is an Aboriginal Australian athlete and former politician. Nova Peris became the first Aboriginal person to win an Olympic gold medal when she was a member of the victorious Hockeyroos team in Atlanta in 1996.
She also became the first mother to be a gold medalist for Australia since Shirley Strickland in 1956. The Northern Territorian, born in Darwin in 1971, was an outstanding talent as a hockey player, with her pace, agility and attacking skills making her a distinguished player on the international stage.
Nova Peris is one of few athletes who have represented their country in two different sports; hockey and athletics, and separate Olympic Games. She remains the only person in the entire world to make back to back Summer Olympic Games finals in two different sports! She is also the only person to win Olympic and Commonwealth Gold Medals in different Sports! Nova represented Australia for 13 years in sports, competing at two Olympics, four World Championships, three Champion’s Trophy’s and the Commonwealth Games.
"Created by artist-activists Gillie and Marc and Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Warung artist Jandamarra Cadd, the statue captures a powerful and determined Peris. Cadd also painted the portrait of a bare-footed Peris that sits in Parliament House. Peris was the first Indigenous woman to be elected to parliament and represented the ALP in the senate for the Northern Territory for three years.
The artists said there were multiple layers to the statue. The saltwater crocodile and the black-headed python represent Peris’ totems on her mother and father’s sides. Three native hibiscus flowers, the flowers of the stolen generation, are symbolic of her mother and grandparents, who were forcibly removed from their parents. At Peris’ feet are her hockey stick and Olympic gold medal. Peris swapped hockey - for which she had won an Olympic gold medal with the Hockeyroos - for athletics and managed to remain at the top of her game.
“Most statues are of people on a podium, or a square box, but I didn’t come out of a square box, my life has been one of resilience and strength", Peris said. “That’s why I wanted it to have me running over Country. It’s rugged.”
At the unveiling, Peris’ children Destiny and Jack said they had not seen their mother in her sporting endeavors but they had witnessed her advocacy in Indigenous health, education and human rights. “There was not a dry eye ... when they spoke,” Peris said. “I want people to see that statue, young Australians particularly, to know you’ve got to have your dreams and aspirations and to know that with hard work and discipline, you can achieve anything in life.”