Funding Grant For Goolagong Initiative

Evonne Goolagong Cawley's efforts to give back to Australia's indigenous community have received a major boost.

Published February 01, 2011 04:17

Funding Grant For Goolagong Initiative
Evonne Goolagong Cawley

MELBOURNE, Australia - Evonne Goolagong Cawley's "first dream" was to win Wimbledon, which she achieved twice - in 1971, and as a mother in 1980. The former world No.1's "second dream" was to work with indigenous children after she retired from professional tennis. Following her relocation back to Australia in 1992, this turned into a 15-year quest, which last week was boosted by a major injection of federal funding.

"Tennis has given me so much in life, taken me all around the world and provided me with such wonderful friends," explained the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion at last week's WTA Alumnae & Friends reunion in Melbourne. "I just hope I can give back to all those young kids out there, by introducing them to the game that I've loved and enjoyed."

Back at home, Goolagong's focus was, at first, intensely personal: She was driven by a need to reconnect with her heritage and roots after two decades based in the US, and the death of her mother in 1991. "I was able to find out a lot more about my culture," said Goolagong Cawley. "I've even been out to do 'women's business'… I can't tell you about it because there are men here… but I've had the most amazing experiences."

Soon, though, her attention turned to the needs of the younger generation of Aboriginal people. This involved extensive travel around the country - looking, listening, and offering advice on tennis and life in general.

In 2005, Goolagong Cawley's mission gained new focus with the launch of the Goolagong National Development Camp. The scheme, now in its seventh year, aims to foster the athletic and leadership skills of youngsters who have the potential to become professional tennis players, coaches or administrators.

The latest camp, run in partnership with the Commonwealth-backed Indigenous Sports Foundation and held at Monash University during last month's Australian Open, brought 15 youngsters aged between 15 and 21 to Melbourne for six days. The program included a number of training sessions under Goolagong Cawley herself; other qualified indigenous coaches included her brother, Ian, a former US college player with whom she played mixed doubles at the All England Club.

Participants also attended seminars on a variety of topics, including nutrition, sports psychology and media interaction, and enjoyed social events such as a trip to watch the tennis at Melbourne Park. As well as attending the camp itself, the youngsters are mentored through the year, and encouraged to stay in work or training; over the past six years, 14 camp participants have gone on to take up a Goolagong Scholarship with schools in Victoria, NSW and Queensland, where they combine schooling with elite level tennis development.

Now, Goolagong Cawley's initiatives will be galvanized by a new partnership between Australia's Federal Government and Tennis Australia, the Learn. Earn. Legend! Indigenous Tennis Program.

The government will contribute $350,000 over three years to the scheme, which Tennis Australia will match. In practice, the funding will increase the number of Goolagong Cawley Scholarships for students to attend schools where they can both study and play tennis. It will also support internships and school-based traineeships for participants and more than double the number of kids who can attend the Goolagong National Development Camp.

"I started out by having people help me get on my way and I wanted to do that with other indigenous people," said Goolagong Cawley. "If others didn't give me that support in the beginning, I wouldn't be standing here today."

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