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The History of Racism in Australian Sports



In Australia, for a long span of history, the topic of ethnic inequality has governed. Aboriginal Australian residents, in particular, have been discriminated against in school, housing and in the sports industry. Aboriginal citizens’ rights have been suppressed, rendering it a vital public-domain issue. The element of diversity management in the contemporary world aims to give fair opportunities to all human beings, regardless of their ethnicity, colour, colour, nationality or even sex, in all fields. PDHPE teachers in Australia are quickly pulled into politically motivated controversies that can have an impact on their educational method. The problem of ethnic inequality in the Australian academic system has influenced the way aboriginal students are viewed. As an instructor, I feel that in the education field, the fight against racial discrimination in Australia should commence. The teachers of the PDHPE should be dedicated to carrying out the numerous measures set out in this country to eradicate ethnic discrimination. In the fight against racial injustice, I agree that establishing an equal learning atmosphere that empowers Aboriginal students and establishes equality in events such as sports would perform well.

The History of Racism in the Indigenous People in Australia Sport

            In Australia, the sport sector has been dominated a by a great manifestation of racial discrimination. Shannon (2013) notes that the findings will be pretty damning if sport was a litmus tool for bigotry. Shannon’s theory is that the greatest degree of ethnic inequality has been shown by the Australian sporting industry. In sports, this ethnic xenophobia is a consideration that in Australia has a long tradition and still continues today. The lack of aboriginal athletes inside the current sporting teams is one of the aspects in which ethnic inequality is dominated. The first Aboriginal individual to play cricket in Australia, for example, was treated as a great asset in culture. In 1835 in Australia, Shiney was the first person to play Cricket and he became a historical figure. His head was kept in a museum until he died, to signify the rareness of being an Aboriginal figure. Between 1850 and 1987, following Shiney’s death, only 10 Aborigines made it into the country’s cricket teams. The statistical coverage of aboriginal participation in the Australian sporting community indicates that ethnic inequality in the sports industry has been serious and has adversely impacted aboriginal citizens.

            Secondly, there were many stereotypical references to the Aborigines who enrolled in the sports teams. For instance, an aborigine player failed to be recruited in a sports team for the reason that “he smelled” and was not worthy to mingle with the natives. Gilbert, who was a strong ball bowler was branded a “chucker” as one way of intimidating his struggle to succeed. These stereotypes had a great impact on the development of the talents of aboriginals’ skills. The stereotypes were meant to suppress those who were strong enough to raise to games and sports and to keep them demotivated during play. These kinds of behaviour discouraged many non-natives from engaging in games and many other social activities. Judd & Halliman (2007) manifest the boundaries that were laid to separate Aboriginals from the natives in the sports sector. The result was this is that aborigines formed their own teams while the Australians constituted their own teams. For instance, racial discrimination in the basketball sport lead to the formation of the “black fellas team” that comprised of the black people who were isolated from the natives teams. The stereotypes and the discrimination of potential sports players hindered the aborigines from succeeding in this field.

            Numerous efforts have been dedicated towards the suppression of racial discrimination not only in sports but also in all aspects of the Australian society. One of the bodies that have been committed to developing a discrimination free environment is the NSW department of Education and Training. This body set out to ensure that an integrative approach is used to national development. According to NSW (2008) pushed for compulsory Aboriginal cultural education through professional training and career development experiences for all staff. The NSW intended to provide a fair learning environment for all students in spite of the race. The United Nations has always focussed on the equal treatment of all human beings through the spirit of brotherhood (Nakata, 2009). Other social activists have come up to criticize the manifestation of racial discrimination and to push for more equal treatment. Although numerous efforts have been dedicated to provide a fair environment for aboriginals, racial equality is still a dream to be realized. On this note, there is need for all teachers to increase their commitment to inspirational teaching to help in the development of a zero discrimination society.

How Participation in Sport is Linked to Concepts of Aboriginal Identity

            The minimal participation of Aboriginals in sports is the true picture of lack of Aboriginal identity in Australia. Discrimination is only one way in which the racism was manifested in this country. Kickett-Tucker & Coffin, (2011) point out that racial discrimination in Australia is linked to poor educational policies. This implies that it is the same discrimination that existed in the education sector that was manifested in the sports sector. As far as many scholars are concerned, little efforts were put towards development of fair learning environment. For instance, in the academic environment, there is evidence that most Africans were discriminated in sports events. Therefore, the little participation of aborigines in the sport sector was as a result of poor culture management in the institution.  Most Aborigines grew with the mentality that sports were mean only for the native citizens who were the superior race in the society.

            Other authors have drawn the relationship that discrimination in sports was a manifestation of lack of Aboriginal identity. In Australia, there was a great lift between the activities that either Aborigines or the natives could handle. Since the aboriginals lacked cultural identity, their rights to access of education, employment, leisure activities and other activities was limited. The Aborigines formed the poor portion of the Australian population, due to their limited rights and a traditional bias against them. In the learning environment, there was little knowledge on culture management strategies. Since most of the teachers were Australian, racial prejudice was propagated even in the learning environment (Nakata, 2009). Similarly, in the field of sports, most of the coaches were natives and this made it impossible for the non-natives to do well in this environment. From this angle, it is clear that discrimination in sports was a manifestation of the lack of aboriginal identity in Australia.

Official Obligations in Responding to Student Discussion

            Recently, a successful Swan player and a medal winner, Adam Goodes, suffered a racial vilification during one of his sports event. While in play, one of the fans, a 13 year old girl, referred to him as an “ape” because he had contributed to the defeat of her team. This is an issue that generated a lot of attention among many anti-racists in Australia. While the police took intended to investigate on the matter, Goodes stated that he did not want any person bullying his students for such an action as he did not blame her entirely. Alternatively, he stated that the young girl should be educated and provided with the necessary support to see her through the matter. On reacting to the matter, the Australian president apologised not only to Goodes but also to all aborigines and indigenous sportsmen.

As PDHPE teacher, I have the responsibility of contributing to the students’ discussion on the vilification of Adam Goodes. As an instructor, I have a part to play in ensuring that there is an end to a response to ethnic injustice against aboriginal people. In the learning environment, it is common that the learners have prior knowledge on the racial stereotypes that exist within the society. As a result, they are likely to have racial attitudes within the learning environment. The case of the 13 year old girl shows the racial orientation of children right from their age. It signifies that racial discrimination is an issue that develops right from when children are brought up in their young age. As a result, most of them are may not be aware of the impact of such racial discrimination issues in the society (NSWDEC, 2014). As a result, I have a role to ensure that the students such as those participating in such a discussion have the right understanding of the matter and the effects of racial discrimination in the society.

My official obligation lies in contributing to PDHPE commitment to put develop a cultural management strategy (NSWDEC, 2014). As the institution provides cultural management strategies for teachers to ensure that they are aligned to this goal of the institution, it is crucial to influence the discussion in a positive manner. First, it would be crucial to gauge their understanding of the matter. This way, one may learn the cultural attitudes that the children have on the matter. From this point, it is possible to design an approach to enlighten the society. First, I have the role to provide educational counselling to the group to help them in identifying with the value of cultural cohesion. At this point, it would be crucial to give them guidance on how to treat each other as equal members. This will help them to see the need for transformational change and the need for cultural equity. Also, I have role in fostering cohesion among learners within a multi-cultural learning environment.  Such a discussion would be a crucial opportunity for me to enhance social cohesion by educating the group and proving guidance on gender related issues. Taking advantage of such a situation would add to the organizations commitment to diversity management strategies.

How PDHPE Curriculum Can be Used to Guide My Response

In this discussion, the PDHPE curriculum would help me in designing my response to the student discussion. The PDHPE curriculum deems both direct and indirect discrimination against people for reasons foo their race, colour or tradition as illegal (NSWDEC, 2014). For this group discussion, it would be necessary to disclose to them the nature of racial discrimination. Here, I would begin by analysing Adam Goodes scenario and helping the students to identify whether it is a case of direct or indirect discrimination. Racial discrimination is a complex matter for many students. The reason why many people have ignored various forms of racial discrimination is because they lack the understanding of this concept. Direct racial discrimination refers to the unequal treatment of people based on the lines of their gender. On the other hand, indirect discrimination is where there is a rule that applies for all but inconveniences people of one race. This can be on the lines of colour, height or any other physical requirement. Helping the students to understand this concept would help them to support the war against racial discrimination.

Secondly, the curriculum provides a motivational approach to the war against racial discrimination. One of the reasons why many people stick to racial stereotypes is because they lack the right motivation towards abolishment of racial discrimination. For instance, many people are aware of the negative impact racial discrimination but lack the inspiration to stop such behaviour (NSWDEC, 2014). My role in this case would be to impart the right motivation to the discussion groups and allow them to participate in the role of changing their friends and the society as a whole. The initiative of the students to discuss the matter shows their curiosity to understand matters of racial discrimination in detail. On this note, it would be crucial to provide moral support for the students to encourage them in contributing to the war against Australian aborigine culture. Also, if the group comprises of aboriginal students, it would be crucial to motivate them in their learning as an equal human beings in the Australian society. Developing the right attitude in students would help to contribute to attitude change and to reduce the influence they have from behind their local societies.

Lastly, PDHPE curriculum provides a transformational approach to social development (NSWDEC, 2014). The transformative approach aims at empowering all the members of the society to become participants in the war against racial discrimination. Although the war to support Aborigines in Australia have gained momentum, it is clear that aborigines themselves have been left in their own war. The fact that they have become subjects of inferiority complex, they feel that the war is fruitless and don’t see the need to join in the war. In addition, the racial forces have made them a weaker race that is not free even to fight for its own rights. On this note, empowering them to join in the war is one strategy of winning the war against racial discrimination. During such a discussion, it is likely that Aborigines would not contribute to the topic. As such, it is crucial to empower them to raise their voices and become social activists in the society. Therefore, I would try as much as possible to engage the Aborigines students in the discussion. This way, I would empower them to speak their out their ideas on the issue and provide an approach to eradication of the problem. I would educate them on the need for all people to see themselves as equal partners despite their differences in colour, language or even culture. Many scholars subscribe to the idea that the war against racial discrimination should start with empowering all the people to contribute in this war right from their early age.


  In conclusion, racial discrimination in Australia is a historical issue that has generated a lot of attention in the public domain. Right in the 19th century, the Aboriginal groups were discriminated in the sports environment and it was very rare to find a team with an indigenous sports person. Unfortunately, this issue of racial discrimination in sports is still common. This can be seen from the recent case of Adam Goodes, one of the successful sportsmen, who suffered a racial abuse from a 13 year old Australian girl. The evidence of racial discrimination in the field of sports is a true reflection of lack cultural identity for the indigenous citizens of Australia. Although numerous efforts exist in Australia to fight racial discrimination, it is clear that there is need for more positive action towards the matter. As a PDHPE teacher I have a role to play in developing a culture that has zero tolerance to racial prejudice. To achieve this, I should take advantage of every opportunity to provide education and support to learners in effort to get them on board this war. The PDHPE curriculum is superior tool that I can always use to support, motivate and inspire learners in various discussions so as to change their attitudes on racial issues and guide them to pick the right cultural attitudes.

  • Judd, B., and Hallinan, C., (2007). “Blackfellas” Basketball: Aboriginal Identity and Anglo- Australian Race Relations in Regional Basket Ball. Sociology sports Journal, 24, Pp. 421-436.
  • Kickett-Tucker, C., & Coffin, J. (2011). Aboriginal self-concept and racial identity: practical solutions for teachers. In N, Pudie., G, Milgate., & H. R., Bell. (Eds.).Two Way Teaching and Learning: Towards culturally reflective and relevant education. Camberwell, Vic: ACER.
  • Nakata, M., (2009). Indigenous Peoples, Racism and the United Nations. London: Cengage Learning.
  • NSWDEC. (2008). Aboriginal Education and Training Policy Retrieved from: <https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/students/access_equity/aborig_edu/PD20080385.shtml>
  • NSW Department of Education and Communities, (2014). PDHPE Curriculum. Retrieved from:< http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/secondary/pdhpe/ >
  • Shannon, P., (2013). Sport and Racism. Green Left Weekly. Retrieved from; < https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/8877 >

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