February in the United States is Black History Month, a time in which the achievements of African American in all facets of American life, including sport, are celebrated.
While here in Australia there is no reciprocal month, it does provide a moment to pause and consider the great achievements of Australia's own pioneering indigenous women in sport.
1. Evonne Goolagong-Cawley
A multiple grand slam winner, Goolagong-Cawley is one of Australia’s greatest ever athletes.
Her accomplishments on the court sees her currently 12th on the list of all-time singles grand slam winners (14 in total), with Goolagong-Cawley ending her career with 86 single titles in all.
In 1971, the Barellan raised tennis player received the Australian of the Year award after winning French Open and Wimbledon titles.
Goolagong-Cawley was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 and the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1988.
2. Cathy Freeman
There are very few sporting events where a majority of the nation can remember where they were at that particular point in time (sitting at home in the lounge with my parents).
Cathy Freeman’s 400m final race at the Sydney 2000 Olympics is one those events.
The face of the Sydney Olympics, the in form runner, Freeman had the weight of Australia’s expectation behind her and wow did she deliver.
With the visibility of the Sydney Olympics 400m race, it is easy to forget Freeman’s career was more than just that one race.
Freeman was also 4x Commonwealth Game gold medallist, 2x World Champion at 400m and Atlanta 1996 Olympics silver medallist.
But she will be forever remembered for that one magic night in Sydney.
3. Nova Peris
One sport wasn’t enough of a challenge for the multi-talented Nova Peris.
Her first sporting successes came as a member of the Hockeyroos and in 1996 claimed an Olympic gold medal at Atlanta 1996.
In a golden period for the dominant Hockeyroos, Peris and her teammates also collected gold at the 1993 and 1995 Champions Trophy and the 1996 World Cup.
In 1997, she switched to athletics and continued to find success as she became a double gold medallist at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in the 200m and 4× 100 metres relay. Her achievements saw her named the 1997 Young Australian of the Year.
Nova Peris has since moved into civic life and is currently a Senator for the Northern Territory.
4. Tracy Lee Barrell
Entering swimming at 14 years of age, it wasn’t long before Paralympic swimmer Barrell was making a splash.
At the Barcelona 1992 Olympics, Barrell won two gold medals women’s 4x50 m Freestyle S1-6 event and the women’s 50 m Butterfly S3-4 event and finished fourth in the 50m Freestyle, backstroke and breaststroke.
Barrell also won bronze at the Malta 1994 World Championships before injury forced her retirement.
5. Bridgette Starr
Before there was Kyah Simon and Lydia Williams, there was Bridgette Starr.
Quick, strong in the tackle, cool under pressure and calm on the ball, the defender was the first indigenous women to be selected for a World Cup, playing in the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She also went on to compete at the Sydney 2000 Olympics with the Matildas.
At national level, Starr won the 1999/2000 Women’s National Soccer League (the precursor to the W-League) with the NSW Sapphires.
6. Rohanee Cox
Cox was one of the first indigenous basketballers to represent Australia at the Olympics, winning silver at the Beijing 2008 Olympics with the Opals.
The Perth born guard has played at the top level of Australian basketball for close to two decades and has been is a WNBL MVP (2009), 5x WNBL All Star. Cox represented Australia more than 100 times at junior and senior levels.
7. Stacey Porter
The Tamworth born softballer was the first indigenous Australian to represent her country at softball in the Olympics, picking up a silver at the Athens 2004 Olympics.
A powerful hitter, Porter represented Australia for close to a decade winning bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics as well as host of world championships and in 2005 was named the Australian Softballer of the Year.
In 2010, the first and third basewoman captained the Australian women’s softball team at the International Softball Federation’s world championships in Caracas, Venzuela.
Happily there are plenty more names that can join this list of pioneers as the year continue.