Nova Peris

Quick Facts

  • Name: Nova Peris
  • Born: Darwin, 15 February 1971
  • As a junior runner was called Licorice Legs
  • Won an Olympic gold medal in hockey and Commonwealth gold medals in running
  • A painter and designer
  • Young Australian of the Year 1997
  • Her childhood hero was Betty Cuthbert


Nova Peris is an Indigenous Australian of the Muran people from Kakadu and Arnhem Land. She is a champion sportswoman and artist, and devotes time to helping the community. Peris has many firsts to her name. She was the first Indigenous Australian and the first person from the Northern Territory to win an Olympic gold medal as a member of the victorious Australian women’s hockey team at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.

After her hockey success, Peris focused on running, which saw her become the first Australian athlete to win international gold medals in two different sports. At the 1998 Commonwealth Games she won gold in the 200 metres sprint and as a member of the 4 x 100 metres relay team. In 2001 she won the 400 metres at the Australian Championships, an event in which she competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

When the Olympic torch arrived in Australia for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Peris carried it for the first leg of its journey from Uluru. Cathy Freeman would eventually light the Olympic flame that opened the 2000 Olympic Games.

Peris is much more than a champion sportswoman. She paints traditional Aboriginal paintings, has designed a Swatch Watch (the Nova Swatch) and two Olympic commemorative coins that won second prize at the World Coin Fair. In 1998 she was appointed a delegate to the Constitutional Convention where she spoke passionately in support of Australia becoming a republic. She has also travelled around Australia speaking to young people about her experiences and inspiring them to do their best.

Nova has achieved much but says 'My greatest achievement so far would be my three children. They bring laughter into my life every day.' 



  • Peris, Nova 2003, Nova: My Story ABC Books

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