A year ago, Patty Mills was a national hero, his leadership giving Australia its first Olympic medal in men’s basketball, a bronze, after years of futility. His 42 points in the medal game set records ... and led to a PattyForPM (that’s PM for prime minister) hashtag and bumper stickers.
Now, starting Monday, Mills is taking advantage of all that goodwill and traveling across the continent Down Under, the tour a combination of basketball camps and speaking engagements called, “Speaking My Language,” that he hopes will lead to greater representation — a “Voice” — for indigenous Australians, the aborigines and Torres Strait islanders like himself. The tour opened in Brisbane on Monday...
The tour will end not long before he’ll return to Brooklyn for training camp.
Following in the well-worn path of his great uncle, aboriginal civil rights leader Eddie Mabo, Mills is not hesitant to talk about his goals and the role basketball plays in them.
“It’s not like I speak often but if I do it’s because I have something meaningful to say, and the time and a purpose,” he told The Sun-Herald this weekend. Mills said he spoke with Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney just days after she was sworn in. “[There’s] definitely communication there, and we’ll see what evolves from that. It’s something that’s definitely intriguing and I’m trying to support in any way I can.”
The Patty Mills Unearthed tour will take the newly resigned Nets guard — and team leader — from the Gold Coast in the East of the country to his native Thursday Island in the north to Perth in the west for seven basketball camps as well as speaking engagements in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, the country’s four great cities.
“When you get me away from the camera in an intimate space, or a casual conversation, that’s where I really start to most share my passion and ... I can be a little bit more raw,” Mills said.
The focus of it all is a change in Australia’s constitution to give the aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the “Voice.” Under the proposal, Australia would add these sentences to its constitution:
- There shall be a body, to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
- It may make representations to parliament and the executive government on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- The parliament shall, subject to this constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
The addition has been controversial in Australia, the subject of fierce debates. Mills hopes adding his voice the advocates for the “Voice” will help turn the tide. Shaquille O’Neale, who recently traveled to Australia, endorsed the proposal in a meeting with the Prime Minister. That, too, was controversial, with some seeing the American celebrity and sports star’s support as interference in an Australian debate.
“Shaq himself has done a lot in this space in the [United] States,” he said. “Any support is great, especially in that space. So you know, I hope that hold him well for him,” Mills told local media.
There will be personal aspects to his tour as well.
“It will be nice to do things I did as a kid again, walk around barefoot go spear fishing and hang out in a dinghy and just connect to the land and my culture,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“There’s always a big flood of emotions whenever I return, and I am glad that I have that to go back to because as I said, then it fuels the fire for everything else that I do.”
- NBA star Patty Mills throws weight behind a Voice, praises Shaq - Lucy Manly - Sydney Morning Herald