Brooke Peris is creating her own imprint on and off the field
At just 18, Brooke Peris made the toughest decision of her life.
She left her tight-knit community in Darwin, her home and her entire family, to pursue her dream of playing hockey on the world stage.
For most Indigenous youngsters, and for most 18-year-olds, being so far away from home is a frightening thought and a possibility they don’t wish to fathom. Peris admits it was a culture shock, especially coming from a small community with a unique culture and heavy emphasis on family.
Looking back now, she believes it was the best decision of her life.
No matter how much talent you have it’s hard to leave somewhere where you feel comfortable, you feel at home and feel at peace.
You know, my second cousins are my best friends, I hold them so close to my heart and all my aunties and uncles, I speak to them on a regular basis.
And when I went into a different environment [entered the AIS program in Perth], people are like whoa you speak to your family that much, like your long distance family, they don’t understand this is normal for me.
But once you do leave and once you get comfortable in your team environment, you figure out that you are who you are.
In 2013, a 19-year-old Peris made her international debut, winning gold at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival with a 2-1 victory over China.
That same year she won another gold at the Oceania Cup and silver at the World League Finals in Argentina, ultimately getting the call-up to the Australian Hockeyroos squad.
A year later, the Hockeyroos forward’s trophy cabinet grew again, winning gold at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. She was awarded Northern Territory Athlete of the Year that same year – an achievement she’s extremely proud of.
She made her Olympic debut in Rio in 2016 with the Australian women’s hockey side finishing fifth on the ladder after a disappointing quarterfinal exit handed down by trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.
Now, at 24, Peris is a senior member of the Hockeyroos and finds herself becoming a mentor for the young girls coming through the ranks.
Off the field however, she is hoping to play an even bigger role, inspiring her community to pursue their dreams and not be frightened by them.
When I’m home, you know the kids are playing footy and hockey and I see so much talent but for some reason they stop and they stay at home, they don’t actually go and explore and show the world what they got.
You know it’s a real shame but at the same time, I don’t want to encourage them if they don’t want to.
But I will go home and tell them that they belong somewhere else, if you’ve got a dream go live it.
It’s really about challenging yourself and getting out of your skin and going to live your dreams.
The resilient GC2018 Hockey Ambassador is also the cousin of former Olympic Hockeyroo gold medallist, Olympic athlete and Australian Senator Nova Peris.
Nova was the first Indigenous athlete to win an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games and was one of Peris’ inspirations to chase her dream.
I’m proud to say that she’s my cousin and I’m proud of her achievements. I really don’t know how she did it sometimes.
I don’t think I’ll ever make the imprint that Nova did. She’s just fantastic, you know the way she went about it, like she inspired me to be who I am and go down this path but I don’t think I would do that.
It’s just who she is, that was her path, that was her destiny and mine is this.
Peris also acknowledges the massive part her family and community played when she first left her home.
The first step is actually getting out there and trying and if you fail you can just go back home because they’re [the community] are going to open their arms to you no matter what.
The thing I’ve learnt most is that my family are the biggest supporters, they watch every single one of my games, they all come together and when I’m home, they surround me, like it’s the biggest event you’ll ever see, and I feel so much love.
The Hockeyroos are currently in a re-building stage, revamping their coaching structure and playing group for next year’s Commonwealth Games and Tokyo 2020.
They’ll face a tough test at GC2018 after Great Britain snared Olympic gold in Rio 2016 and New Zealand ended Australia’s hopes for Olympic gold. And although this shattered the team, Brooke believes they will be a force to be reckoned with, especially in their retribution matches against Team England and the Kiwis.
I have no doubt that this Commonwealth Games is going to be amazing and we’re going to put on a show and we’re going to put on a good one.
When you break a heart, all you want to do is fix it and by fix it, it’s beating them.
Her biggest supporters may not be watching on from the sidelines but they’ll still be there.
The thing that I’ve learnt is that when I go home that is home and when I’m here, I carry them on my shoulders as I know they are my support system, because you get empowerment from your family.
It’s a lovely feeling that you’re a part of a group and that you’re proud of who you are and where you come from.
To see the Hockeyroos in action on the Gold Coast in April next year, visit our tickets page