Like most Australians, I love sport. In the small town where I grew up, sport was at the centre of community life. As a child, I played sport all year round: Australian Rules football, cricket, tennis, basketball, golf. And when I wasn’t playing sport, my friends I were watching it, talking about it, going for a run or kicking a ball around.
At times I think my parents would have preferred that I spend a bit less time on the sports field and a bit more time focused on homework. And they were probably right! But looking back, I actually learned a lot of valuable life lessons from all that sport. I learned about principles like teamwork, sacrifice, persistence, the link between effort and reward, the importance of being both a good winner and a good loser.
One of the things I enjoy most about Solomon Islands is the love of sport and the rich sporting culture. Drive through Honiara late in the afternoon (or for that matter any Australian city early in the morning) and you’ll see literally hundreds of people jogging, training, or playing a ball sport. I’ve lived in other countries where most people don’t play or watch sport very much. That always struck me as a bit sad. But Solomon Islanders seem more like Australians in their zest for sport. It’s a bridge that unites us.
Sport can also be a source of national unity. The performance of the national team at the Pacific Games a few months ago was a great source of pride for many Solomon Islanders. In the Australian High Commission, we were especially proud of our own Shalom Akao-Waita, who was part of the Solomon Islands’ netball team.
It’s no coincidence that Shalom brings energy, commitment and a great sense of teamwork to her role as a senior manager of our Education program. The links between Shalom’s performance on the netball court and her performance at work are obvious to me. Show me someone who’s successful on the sports field and I’ll show you someone who’s well-placed to succeed in the workplace.
So to me, sport is much, much more than just a pastime. Apart from its life lessons and its health benefits, sport is a great way to bring people together – whether it’s a raucous crowd watching an S-League match at Lawson Tama or a group of kids playing barefoot soccer on a dirt pitch.
For all these reasons, we’re delighted to be hosting the annual G’Day Solomon Islands Fun Run tomorrow morning. We’ve been amazed at the number of registrations, which as I write this are approaching 4,000.
I’ll be participating with my family. Dawn and I see it as an opportunity to show our kids that physical activity is a normal part of a healthy life. And to expose them to the fun, joy and camaraderie that comes from participating in an organised sporting event with other people. Say g’day as you run past us tomorrow!
Australian High Commissioner