Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 10. 1971
A recent visitor to the sporting scene on campus was Australian Test Rugby lock. Tony Abraham, who holds both a B.A. and an LL.B. Abraham was a Wallaby from '67 to '69, but since then injury and a commitment to his anti-racist opinions have kept him out of serious rugby.
Of the 30 man Australian team which travelled to South Africa in 1969, six have since returned and voiced strong anti-apartheid convictions. Tony is one of the five Wallaby reps out of that six, who have been particularly active in speaking out against the policies of South Africa, specifically as they extend into the realm of sport. (He suspects that more of his team-mates sympathise with his opinions but do not wish to make them public.) What he witnessed at first-hand in South Africa must have made a big impression on him, for he pays for much of his crusading himself. He was interviewed by Peter Winter:
Ques—What is the general public attitude in Australia to movements such as Hart, Care, and so on; in fact, towards the whole an anti-apartheid movement?
Abraham—"The general public feeling is difficult to gauge of course, but in New South Wales, for example, two of the major morning papers are on our side. The majority of Australian students are against any sporting contact with South Africa, and the policy of ASA is to oppose any such contact."
Ques—How do you deal with the much-heard argument that before you look at South Africa and the situation existing there, you should look at your own country, and its treatment of the Aborigine as we should look at our treatment of the Maori, and so on?
Abraham—"I see the anti-tour activities and so on as a possible springboard for raising the issues in Australia. We now have Aborigine representation on the anti-tour committees throughout the country tor example. Besides, though our |Australian| treatment of the Aborigine is often compromising, surely our compromising with South Africa is of a far more serious nature?... it emphasises or reinforces our home policy if you like."
Ques—Why not oppose Russia, or any other country, for its offenses against human liberties? Why pick on South Africa, and give it all your attention?
Abraham—"Well, firstly, there isn't any other country in the world which makes its political situation so blatantly manifest in sport. Also, sport can be used as a means of breaking down socio-political barriers between countries, the recent case of the American ping-pong team playing in Red China being a classic example. And 400 million people saw on T.V. the scenes at the end of the last Olympic Games, where athletes danced in the centre of the arena, forgetting Such differences as skin-colouring. Yet 50 years of sporting contact with South Africa by both Australia and New Zealand has seen no breaking down of barriers. It was only the refusal of the N.Z.R.F.U. to compromise with South Africa's racist sporting policies in 1967 that led to Poly-nesians being invited in the 1970 team. (Yet as an Afrikaans newspaper has said, they were only 'tea-coloured!)"*
Ques—What do you think of the recent move by the South African Government to allow your Aborigine tennis star, Marie Woollongong, to play in South Africa, and her acceptance of their invitation?
Abraham—"I view it as a terrible compromise. I also suspect that she was only granted an entry visa because of the proposed cricket and rugby tours of Australia by South Africa later this year. Sport is fast becoming the only link you see..."