Flat White

Australia is in love with Ash Barty

1 February 2022

2:00 PM

1 February 2022

2:00 PM

Everyone in Australia is in love with Ash Barty, and for good reason. That young lady has just won the Australian Open women’s tennis championship. That will make her tally of slams three out of a possible four, with her wins on the three different surfaces.

Her coach explained that she is unlikely to win the US Open because, of all things, that tournament is played with differently weighted balls for men and women. All I can say is, wait and see.

Ash Barty has been described as ‘a small, humble, almost impossibly talented and overwhelmingly likeable player’. All accurate, and I am sure there are others as well. She describes herself in accordance with tradition as an Indigenous woman of the Ngaragu people, giving herself a lineage, as far as we know, many thousands of years old.

After Ash’s victory, she was presented with the trophy by another woman with Indigenous genealogy, Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Evonne won seven slams – five in Australia. She is reported as belonging to the Wiradjuri peoples and has invested a lot of time and effort assisting young Indigenous children to make something of their lives.

One other important Australian female tennis player, probably the greatest of all time, must also be remembered: Margaret Court. She is known by her husband’s surname, her religion, and the principles she lives by.

To put Ash and Evonne’s tennis records into some perspective, Margaret Court won 24 Grand Slam women’s singles titles, 19 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, and 21 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. No one on the planet, male or female, has matched that record; not Nadal, not Roger, not Djokovic.

But I digress.

When Ash points proudly to her Indigenous heritage, she is saying that the habits and conventions of that people are alive in her. Evonne, in her way, does the same by keeping her father’s name along with her husband’s. All of our fellow Indigenous Australians now recognise their tribal origins with pride in exactly the same way that Sir Robert Menzies identified himself with his English heritage.

In fact, every Australian has a heritage. Some are English, some Scottish, some French, some Dutch, some Jewish, some Chinese, some German, some Lebanese, and some Vietnamese. Others are from here, there, and elsewhere. My lineage is Welsh, English, Irish, German with probably some others going back many thousands of years.

When we look at our heritage, we see only diversity. Yet there is one thing that unites us all: we are all the citizens of one nation, Australia, and because we are Australian citizens and not subjects of a monarch, we share equally in all the rights and privileges of that citizenship. Australia is a democratic republic without the division that different classes bring to a society.

To be a citizen is to be a citizen of a republic. The primary duty of every government in a republic is to cultivate the virtues that make its citizens good citizens, for a republic with good citizens is said to be civilised. The inherent beauty of a republican constitution is that it can accept people with an infinite variety of origins, but to be one nation, it must educate all to become good citizens without relying on propaganda.

Propaganda is the tool that tyrannies masquerading as republics – the USSR, the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, etc – rely on to purchase their people’s loyalty.

Ash Barty’s accomplishment on Saturday, Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s almost 50 years ago, and Margaret Court’s triumphant victories embellish our nation with their heritage. Australia does not ask anyone to forget their heritage; but it does demand that they love our Constitution. After all, it not only unites us all but carries us equally into the future.

Ash Barty actually knows something more that tennis. She already knew where the future for Indigenous peoples lie when she tweeted the next day, ‘I’m so proud to be an Aussie!’

Hear Hear!

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