Tennis 2021: Evonne Goolagong Cawley says she feared becoming member of Stolen Generation

Evonne Goolagong Cawley, one of the greatest tennis players Australia has ever seen, has made a devastating admission about her childhood.

Tennis great Evonne Goolagong Cawley says she feared becoming a member of Australia’s Stolen Generations while growing up in regional NSW.

The 69-year-old, a proud Wiradjuri woman, said she once hid under the bed at a relative’s home in fear of being taken away by “the welfare man”.

“We visited my cousin in Griffith, which is where I was born, in the mission there,” the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion told Tennis Australia.

“Every time a shiny car would come down the road, my mum used to say ‘you better run and hide, the welfare man’s going to take you away’.

“So I remember hiding very nervously under the bed ’cause I didn’t want to get taken away.”

In 2018, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that one in seven First Nations Australians aged 50 or over had been removed from their homes as part of past government policies.

Goolagong Cawley said growing up in fear of being part of the Stolen Generations ultimately shaped her approach to tennis.

“I think that’s why losing a match never really bothered me,” she said.

“I just felt I was very lucky to be there in the first place to enjoy this wonderful game, and it was my own little world.

“I felt this is my world. No one can touch me here.”

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Goolagong Cawley’s first Grand Slam win.

Then competing under her maiden name of Goolagong, she won the 1971 French Open as a 19-year-old in her first appearance at the tournament.

She went on to win the singles title at Wimbledon later that year, and in 1980, she became only the second mother to win the Wimbledon’s singles title.

Closer to home, she is one of only five women in the Open era to win the Australian Open three times consecutively.


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