Skip to content
Home

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and Sport

Prepared by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Evaluated by: Dr Andrew Bennie, Senior Lecturer, Health and Physical Education, School of Health Science, Western Sydney University (May 2021)
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 07 May 2021
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia possess diverse languages and customs and are one of the world’s oldest continuous cultures with a history dating back more than 50,000 years.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities have a strong connection to sport. When sports organisations engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities it provides mutual benefits. Sports can gain larger and more diverse participation and fan bases. In return, sport can offer enhanced social, education and health outcomes, and pathways to careers, on or off the field.

Key messages

Co-operation

Sport needs to work closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, government, and non-government programs to harness opportunities and assist in delivering long term outcomes.

Contribution

Sport, and sport-related programs, can assist in engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and communities, developing wellbeing, and playing an important role in progress towards Closing the Gap targets.

Commitment

The Australian Government and all State and Territory Governments are committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to overcome the inequality experienced and achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians.

Background

State of play

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 3.3 per cent of Australia’s population and currently experience a burden of disease that is 2.3 times the rate of the wider Australian community.

Closing the Gap

The National Agreement on Closing the Gap aims to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and governments to work together to achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians.

Role of sport

Sport is often cited as a positive vehicle for community and cultural connectedness, as well as improving individual education, health, social and emotional wellbeing, and life skills.

Participation

Evidence suggests the strongest motivations for participation in sport and physical activity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals are related to health and community, with social reasons for participation being as important as individual reasons. Positive role models, enjoyment, and feeling safe and comfortable are also strong facilitators. Factors that negatively affect participation include: gender (women are less active than men), cultural perceptions of activities, racism and villification, limited opportunities (particularly in remote and regional areas), and logistical difficulties (cost, transport, climate, etc.).

Statistics

Participation in sport and/or physical activity by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Factors influencing participation

There are hundreds of factors that can influence sports participation or non-participation.

Coaching and leadership

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander coaches and leaders provide signficant value.

Benefits

As part of the broader Closing the Gap agenda, sport can help break down barriers and assist with entry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The diversity of sports and sporting activities (including social sport and physical recreation) make sport an ideal medium to reach individuals from every age-group, culture, and socio-economic background.

Education

Sport is often seen as a way to engage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in education. It also promotes improved physical and mental wellbeing, which can have a positive impact on individuals' ability to learn.

Health and wellbeing

Sport—particularly team-based sport—can support positive health outcomes including: improved resilience and mental health; positive role models; social connectedness; and, higher likelihood of continuing PA long term.

Role models

Role models, from elite players to coaches, friends/family to community leaders can help to demonstrate diversity, inclusion, and encourage preferred behaviours.

Policies, programs, and supporting structures

Following is a non-exhaustive list of Australian government and non-government programs and services with a focus on supporting and developing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sport, physical activity, and health.

Further information

International practice
International strategies, policies, programs, reports and research.

Resources and reading
Additional resources and reading.

Acknowledgment

The Clearinghouse for Sport pays our respects to the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and acknowledge the valuable contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make to Australian society and sport.

Is this information complete?

The Clearinghouse for Sport is a sector-wide knowledge sharing initiative, and as such your contributions are encouraged and appreciated. If you would like to suggest a resource, submit a publication, or provide feedback on this topic, please contact us.

Alternatively, if you would like to be kept up to date with research and information published about this topic, please request a research profile setup.

Return to top