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Australian Sport History

Prepared by: Greg Blood, Emeritus Researcher, Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 13 October 2020
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

Australia’s sport history dates back to Indigenous Australians (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people) who maintained sporting traditions closely linked with culture and day-to-day life.

It was Australia's early European settlers who viewed sport as a leisure activity. Some of the first examples of sport in this form date back to the early 1800’s in the then colony of New South Wales, when cricket, horse racing, sailing, professional foot races, and rowing were popular sports.

The development of sport, individually and more broadly, as well as the history of the various representative bodies, is a key part of Australia’s past, present, and future story.

Key messages

Impact of sport

The passion Australian's have for sport is often considered a defining characteristic of our nation. Australian sport history highlights the importance of sport in the development of Australian society, culture, and identity.

Legacy

Australian sporting organisations need to manage their history in order to document developments in their organisation and sport and to recognise the achievements of athletes, coaches, and administrators.

Preservation

There are range of resources and services that can assist Australian sporting organisations to manage their history.

Background

Many Australians are passionate about sport, both as participants and spectators. Sport, and related concepts like ‘punching above our weight’, ‘having a go’, and ‘triumph in the face of adversity’, are often considered fundamental aspects of the Australian identity both on the sporting field and off [source: Australian identity and sport, Paul Barclay, ABC RN, (22 August 2016)].

The vision of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame highlights the importance of sport history. ‘We exist to preserve and celebrate the history of Australian sport; and to excite the next generation of young Australians to achieve their potential both in sport and in life’.

Australian sport history:

  • Provides an understanding of changes in Australian society from a sport perspective.
  • Documents the development of sport or specific sports in Australia.
  • Recognises the achievements in sport particularly athletes, officials, and organisations (clubs, teams, associations).

All sports and sporting organisations have a story to tell about how they were established and developed. These stories will often capture individuals and events that have contributed to the history of a particular sport—and the impact that sport has made on communities and Australian society more broadly.

A number of cultural institutions and bodies in Australia support the development and management of sport history. These bodies can assist and advise sporting organisations on how to best manage and preserve their historical legacy.

Sources

Further resources and reading

Is this information complete?

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