Australia’s first Indigenous Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris OAM has shared her inspiration and what it means to her to have designed and painted the Hockeyroos’ and Kookaburras’ Indigenous playing kits.
Nova Peris is a dual Olympian, gold medallist, Young Australian of the Year, talented artist, former Hockeyroo and Federal Senator, but above all, a proud Aboriginal and Australian.
Now, she can also lay claim to being the person to design and paint the first ever Indigenous Hockeyroos and Kookaburras playing strips, as well as ‘The Seven Sisters and Emu in the Sky’ image which will feature on the front of the coaching and support staff polo shirts.
The following is an excerpt written by Nova outlining the background of the designs, the privilege of being asked to draw them and her continued passion for painting.
Hockeyroos and Kookaburras designs
“Back during my sporting days, I loved to paint as it was a way for me to relax, and if I was away overseas, I could take my mind back to my country where I drew inspiration from to paint.
I was fortunate to be asked for my paintings to be commissioned to various organisations, where I designed two coins for the Royal Australian Mint, an Olympic Swatch watch which was sold globally, and four Olympic pins.
I was not a fulltime artist; I was just a person who needed time away from sport and loved what painting gave to me.
To be asked to design the Hockeyroos, Kookaburras and the staff uniform was a humbling gesture. There have been many great Indigenous athletes that have represented Australia over the past few decades and to now have the opportunity to have our culture expressed and showcased to the world is absolutely wonderful and timely with the many other sports who have joined in the spirit of reconciliation.
I enjoyed painting again and both the Hockeyroos and Kookaburras uniforms allowed me to express how I felt during my time as a Hockeyroo.
Being a mother was hard at times, but I knew it sent a message that being a mother should not be a reason that you cannot compete at the highest level. There have been a few mothers that have played for the Hockeyroos since my retirement, and I know there are numerous mothers that also play hockey at national tournaments.
I used x-ray style paintings for both the kangaroo and kookaburra. My descendance is of the Iwatja peoples of Western Arnhemland and we have painted this way for thousands of years. I am also of the Yawuru and Gidja Peoples of the West and East Kimberleys.”
The ‘Seven Sisters and Emu in the Sky’ design
“For thousands of generations Aboriginal people lived under a luminous canopy of constellations, we absorbed the night skies into our cultural, social and spiritual life.
I used The Emu in the Sky and The Seven Sisters. They are both significant for us and for thousands of years they have featured prominently in our story telling.
Aboriginal astronomy is our map to understanding the ecosystems, surviving and living in harmony with this continent.
The “Emu in the Sky” is formed by the dark spaces between stars in the Milky Way, Other than the moon, the brightest object in the night sky in Australia is the Milky Way, which can stretch from horizon to horizon in a dark sky.
The Seven Sisters can be seen from almost every part of the globe. It looks like a tiny cloudy dipper of stars.
Australians are aware of the Southern Cross as it features on the Australian Flag, in fact if you look closely at the Southern Cross in the night sky you’ll see the head of the Emu and Its neck passes between the two pointer stars, the dark body of the Emu stretches the length of our luminous galaxy.”


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