On the ball: students face former PM for good cause

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Marist Catholic College North Shore students have been given a unique opportunity to take on Kevin Rudd on the handball court as part of an initiative aimed at improving the lives of Indigenous Australians.

Student James Netting invited Mr Rudd to attend his school earlier this month after the former PM issued a social media challenge to “handball fiends” across the country. Marist was chosen from among thousands of applicants to host a match, and selected challengers through a school-wide handball competition that students hope will become an annual tradition.

It’s very important that we close that gap so that we’re all equal

– James Netting

As Mr Rudd addressed a large crowd of students ahead of the game, he said he hoped his visit would encourage young people to remember the apology his government made to Indigenous Australians in 2008, and take ‘closing the gap’ seriously.

“I’m using [handball] to promote the National Apology Foundation for Indigenous Australians, which Therese my wife and I co-chair,” Mr Rudd said.

“Its mission statement is to keep the spirit of the apology alive – particularly for this generation who were so young when it happened – and encourage local communities to do something practical to close the gap across the country.”

Like most of his Year 12 classmates, James was just seven years old at the time of the apology, but said he’d learned the importance of ensuring equality for all Australians as part of Marist PDHPE lessons and ‘solidarity’, the school’s name for its social justice programs.

“I also went on an immersion to Cambodia, and by being a part of that you really do see that gap – not just with indigenous Australians, but with many people all over the world,” he said.

“It was eye-opening. It’s very important that we close that gap so that we’re all equal.”

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