Cathy Freeman is an Australian field athlete. She is also an Aboriginal woman. In fact, not only is she both, but she is the first Aborigine to earn a medal in an individual Olympic event which occurred in Atlanta in 1996.
In later years Freeman won gold herself in the 1997 and 1999 world championships and when the Olympic games was hosted by her native Australia in 2000 she proudly carried her country`s flag in the opening ceremony in Sydney and then didn`t disappoint her country folk as she went on to run to victory in the 400 metre final.
Like Freeman, Tony Mangan is a field Athlete and after spending over a year trotting the roads of Australia he is now in Aboriginal country where he is being warmly greeted by those in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Once, there were hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal people living in the Northern Territory even well before European settlement. These people spoke hundreds of different languages. For example, the Yolngu came from Arnhem Land and Arrernet, Pijjantatjara and Warlpiri originated in central Australia.
Back a couple of hundred years ago, the aboriginals in the Northern Territory began trading with Makassan who were from Indonesia. The Indonesians came to Australia in order to harvest sea cucumbers.
In the present day Northern Territory the Larrakia also known as the ‘Saltwalter people’ exist. They find themselves as being the custodians of water and land around Darwin. Even now, over 80 Aboriginal languages are being spoken in this territory with half of the land there being owned by these residents. This even includes national parks like Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Kakadu.
European people began to settle in the Northern Terriotory in 1824 but found it difficult due to its limited supplies, harsh conditions and isolation. The results meant that people were often starved, ill or simply failed to live in the area.
Eventually in 1960 a place named Darwin was established successfully. It was actually named after the famous Charles Darwin. Captain John Lort Stokes founded and on the back of it`s promise Alice Springs originated in 1871. Within another few years gold was discovered close by and subsequent findings and mining of tin, copper, manganese, mica, wolfram, bauxite, uranium, oil and gas.
By 1911 the Northern Territory became a part of the Commonwealth of Australia and separated from South Australia.
In this past week or so, Tony Mangan has been walking briskly through the Northern Territory and has been rewarded by many the kind stranger who has brought him water and placed other bottles of water further along his route for when he really needs it. In spite of it getting hotter for Tony up there, there are those in Aboriginal country who are treating him well due to the originality of his achievements which are similar to that of their own hero Cathy Freeman.
Although Tony is not seeking to break any records in this athletic attempt this man is the salt of the earth and is making Irish people everywhere proud as he continues to fly his country`s flag during his travels with his message of ‘ Early Cancer Screen Saves Lives’.
Tony Mangan is the golden one and like all aboriginals who eventually became heard on the world stage, his message needs to be listened to loud and clear.