The Hon. Kim Beazley, Australia's ambassador to the United States and former leader of the Australian Labor Party, visited Saint Mary's College on Sunday, Nov. 21, and met with the College's president and a number of SMC's Australian students, including members of the renowned basketball team.
"Saint Mary's is becoming increasingly famous in Australia," said Beazley, mainly because there were five Australian players on the men's basketball team that made it to the Sweet 16 last season. "And Australians are almost as fanatical about sports as Americans," he said.
While he admitted he was more a fan of rugby than basketball, Beazley was impressed that several of the Australian athletes on SMC men's and women's teams were products of the Australia Institute of Sports (AIS), including sophomores Matthew Dellavedova, Kate Gaze, Jorden Page, Mitchell Young, junior Clint Steindl and senior Louella Tomlinson. "The AIS is a big deal in Australia. It's our peak elite training institute, and some of our young people have come out of it and done very well here. When you do something well at this level, you become important on the Australia agenda."
At a luncheon on campus, Brother President Ronald Gallagher, FSC, and Beazley met with Australian SMC students and with students who will travel to Australia for Study Abroad programs in the spring.
Saint Mary's currently has seven student-athletes and one student coach from Australia. Those Gaels include men's basketball team members Dellavedova, Page, Steindl and Young; women's basketball team members Gaze and Tomlinson; and men's tennis team member Gavin Leon and assistant tennis coach and student Michael Luck. Beazley also met with and Australian student Rebecca Kershaw and with students bound for Study Abroad programs in Australia, including Sami Al-Asfour, Margarita Grigorian, Lindsey Nakashima and Courtney Runyon.
After the luncheon, Beazley and Nigel Warren, the consul-general of the Australian embassy in San Francisco, headed to McKeon Pavilion to watch the men's basketball team deliver a 87-53 walloping to Mississippi Valley State in the 2010 South Padre Island Classic. They were greeted with renditions of the Australian and U.S. national anthems, and at half time, Brother Ronald gave the Australian ambassador a Saint Mary's T-shirt inscribed with the words "Fear the Roo" and autographed by the members of the men's basketball team to commemorate the occasion.
"It is an extraordinary occasion for Saint Mary's to have someone as distinguished as the Australian Ambassador visit the college," said Brother Ronald. "It's also a testimony to the great success that the Australian students have had here as athletes and as students," he said. "We really enjoy them as part of our community, and it's a thrill and a great honor to have them recognized by Ambassador Beazley, and for him to come and watch one of their games here at Saint Mary's."
Before being named ambassador in February, Beazley served in Australia's government for many years. He was a government minister from 1983 to 1996 in the Bob Hawke and Paul Keating Labor governments and held, at various times, the portfolios of defense, finance, transport and communications, employment education and training, aviation and special minister of state. He was deputy prime minister in 1995-96 and served as leader of the Australian Labor Party and leader of the opposition in 1996-2001 and in 2005-06.
Gaze has known of the political figure since she was very young, and when she told her parents she was going to meet Kim Beazley, they were very excited. "They told me to get a picture. Get a photo! Because, you know, he is such a big name in Australia, and it's nice to know that he is here to support us."
Fellow Aussie Matthew Dellavedova said he found it refreshing just to hear another Australian voice, "I think it is just good to see more Australians here and to hear that familiar accent. You know, you can get homesick sometimes and it makes this feel more like home."
Mike McAlpin and Teresa Castle
Photo by Kory Hayden, Assistant Athletic Director of Recreational Sports
Click here to read the Contra Costa Times' coverage of the Saint Mary's men's basketball game against Mississippi Valley State and the ambassador's visit.