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Indigenous Olympic legend drops by for Reconciliation Week
Published: Thursday, 31 May 2012
Australian Olympic Hurdler Kyle Vander-Kuyp was the special guest at Mentone Grammar assembly today.
Kyle came at the invitation of Year 10 student, Jake Berthelot, who has an indigenous heritage and is leading Reconciliation Week activities at Mentone Grammar. Kyle is arguably Australia's best ever hurdler, winning 12 national championships and representing Australia at two Olympics and four Commonwealth Games.
Kyle was interviewed by teacher Mr Wayne Reed, who has recently returned from the Central Australia Learning Journey with Year 7 students, who were also in the audience, and follows several presentations at recent Assemblies about Reconciliation leading up to this week, where students were asked to reflect on 'what reconciliation means to you.'
Students and staff were privileged to hear Kyle recount his wonderful memories of being an Olympian, his pride in wearing the green and gold (and his dream of doing this at age 10) and his days at school as a young hurdler with a dream. He noted that being an Olympian "challenges you and makes you reach for every mental, physical and emotional resource you have." He also touched on his very supportive Dutch/Australian adopted family and establishing ties with his birth mother at age 33 which has enabled him to become more connected with his own indigenous heritage and his 'mob'.
His message about Reconciliation was simple, 'All of us have a role to play in bringing the indigenous community with us to make Australia a better place. Reconciliation Week is the opportunity to reflect on the longest living culture in the World."
He graciously declined the suggestion to participate in a hurdles race on the school oval as he is no longer at peak fitness and doubts he'd be able to get over the hurdle! However, Kyle was able to meet another budding hurdler, Year 7 student Aidan Taylor, who eagerly made the opportunity for a chat after assembly. Aidan could be Australia's next great hurdler - good luck Aidan!
Kyle also spoke about AIME - a mentoring program aimed at helping indigenous kids finish school - where he now works as a Program Manager.
The day was completed with a sausage sizzle at lunchtime to raise funds for remote indigenous communities.