Australian Government Report – Sport – More Than Just A Game
This inquiry focussed on two issues –
firstly increasing Indigenous participation in sport and
secondly utilising sport to improve Indigenous wellbeing and support the Close the Gap targets.
Picture above: Ngukurr Football Club NT
Sport can be the ‘hook’ or ‘vehicle’ to provide opportunities for communities to come together, to encourage Indigenous participation in education and employment, and to demonstrate positive behaviours through local and elite sporting role models.
Overall the evidence from the inquiry supported the theory that sport has a positive impact on Indigenous wellbeing and mentoring and can contribute positively to achieving the Close the Gap targets in areas such as health, education and employment.
The role of Indigenous mentors was regarded as a critical element to the success of these programs.
The Committee was impressed with many of the sports programs currently operating throughout Australia, including the Commonwealth Government funded ‘Learn Earn Legend’ program being facilitated by numerous sporting bodies that focuses on school to work transitions
. The Committee was pleased to hear about the number of Indigenous students engaging in this program with commitment and passion, resulting in better outcomes for school attrition and attainment and furthering their education pathways and employment prospects.
The success of sports programs can be reliant upon strong partnerships fostered between Government, sporting bodies and the corporate sector.
The Committee recognised that the benefits gained from sport was more than about simply increasing Indigenous participation in sport – it was about engaging the local community as a whole. Community involvement included encouraging Indigenous people to become involved in the administration, umpiring and coaching positions in addition to playing sport.
The participation rates of Indigenous females are lower than the participation rates for males in a majority of the sporting codes and organisations and the Committee has made recommendations to Government to prioritise sports programs to Indigenous women.
Increasing participation of Indigenous boys and girls, men and women in sport was an area where the Committee believed sporting bodies could improve. The Committee hopes that all sporting bodies at local, state and national levels will continue to acknowledge the influential role they have in ensuring that Indigenous Australians are encouraged to participate in sport with culturally supportive policies and programs.
Positive messages of cultural celebration and pride at all sporting events can help in the path to Close the Gap and reconciliation. Several sporting organisations have adopted Reconciliation Action Plans, which is making progress in areas of reconciliation and increasing the understanding and respect for Indigenous Australians through the medium of sport.
The Committee found that sport is much more than just a game – it can be a pathway to stronger communities and better opportunities.