Firestick, Sydney 2000 Paralympic Torch Relay, wood / cotton, used by Ngunnawal Elders, Australia, 2000
The Sydney 2000 Paralympic Torch Relay, like its Olympic counterpart, aimed to engender peace, friendship and tolerance, and at the same time make practical gains through media coverage, marketing and heightened public enthusiasm. Its ceremony to light the Paralympic flame went some way to achieving these intentions.
The Sydney 2000 Paralympic flame was kindled in a uniquely Australian ceremony melding Aboriginal and Paralympic traditions. At 6 am on 5 October 2000, Ngunnawal Elders (Canberra's traditional owners) came together at Parliament House forecourt to hold a smoking ceremony that would cleanse the site and awaken traditional spirits. They ignited the flame by rubbing two sticks together. In a gesture that symbolised the strength of their culture, passed the firestick to local schoolchildren (around 40 children from nearby Queanbeyan Primary School). Together, the children lit the cauldron and performed traditional and contemporary song and dance.
Matilda House, the Ngunnawal elder who performed the smoking ceremony, led a similar ceremony at the Governor General's house to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic flame. After the smoking ceremony, Prime Minister John Howard used a taper to transfer the flame to David Hall, the first torchbearer in the Paralympic Relay. Hall is the winner of Australia's first Paralympic medal in tennis, a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games. From Parliament House, the Paralympic Torch Relay began its 11,500-kilometre journey across Australia to all States and capital cities.
The firestick was made by the Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee and used by Ngunnawal children to light the first community cauldron. Principally, it represents the commencement of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Torch Relay and the fusion of Aboriginal and Paralympic ceremonies. It also signifies the first time that an indigenous community has kindled the Paralympic flame.
Used by Ngunnawal Elders to light the Paralympic torch, 5 October 2000 and owned by the Olympic Coordination Authority/Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and donated to the Powerhouse Museum.