Greg Blood, Emeritus Researcher, Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)
Updated by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport
Reviewed by: Australasian Sport Information Network
Last updated: 14 October 2020
Content disclaimer: See Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer
Sport plays an important role in rural, regional, and remote Australia. It can bring regional communities together; contribute positively to community identity and sense of place; promote social interaction and community inclusion; and play an important role in providing opportunities for physical activity and improved health outcomes. Additionally, rural and regional Australian centres are increasingly hosting sporting events that provide economic stimulus and instil a sense of community pride.
Traditionally, these communities have also developed many of Australia's elite athletes due to their unique cultural characteristics and physical environments.
Governments at all levels, sporting organisations, and individuals can benefit from understanding the unique role that sport can have in these communities in order to better develop opportunities and achieve future goals.
Defining rural, remote and regional Australia
- 17.7% of people live in inner regional areas;
- 8.1% of people live in outer regional areas; and
- less than 2% of people live in remote or very remote areas.
Source: Regional population 2018-19, Australian Bureau of Statistics, (25 March 2020).
- generally lower incomes;
- reduced access to services such as health, education, and transport;
- declining or fluctuating employment opportunities;
- declining populations due to industry changes;
- distance and isolation;
- significant proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; and
- older populations.
State of play
In recent years some rural communities have struggled due to drought, industry changes, and population movements. This can lead to the merger or loss of sporting teams and a decline in facilities.
To ensure that sport remains sustainable, many small Victorian towns have united their AFL and netball teams to make administration more efficient. Others, like Tumut, a NSW country town, introduced rugby league 9's to bring rugby league to life again.
On the other hand there are regions that have encountered population growth and this has placed high demands on volunteers and facilities.
- Review of Football in Country Victoria, AFL Victoria, (2011). Review found that country football needs to change its governance structures to provide greater strategic focus and investment of resources directly in regions. There were four major regions - Ballarat, Geelong, South East and Bendigo - with growth. These regions have strong population growth but there has been a decline in other regions. It found that AFL participation is not directly related to population growth but appears to be dependent on available resources, skills of administrators and coaches and the level of collaboration.
- Review of Sport and Recreation in Regional Western Australia, Watson P, Perth, Western Australian Government, (2008). Report found that "sport and recreation are inextricably linked to the notion of ‘community sustainability’, something clearly understood by regional Western Australians. "Sport and recreation was identified as important in regional indigenous communities in promoting participation and in building capacity. It found that a booming economy resulted in difficulties in sourcing and retaining a range of specialist personnel e.g. aquatic and recreation centre managers, horticulturalists, sport development officers; in building sport and recreation facilities and the ability of community-based organisations to attract and retain volunteers. Solutions that were suggested included improved use of technology, developing ‘family friendly’ fixturing across sports and the development of alternative club structures to better harness the available volunteers.
- Inquiry into Country Football - Final Report, Submission and Government Response, Victorian Parliament Rural and Regional Services Development Committee, (2005). Report found that football was not in decline even though there had been club amalgamations and mergers since 1990. The major issue was the impact of population shifts and an ageing of the traditional volunteer base. The Government’s response was centred on the long term sustainability of country football. Through the A Fairer Victoria policy new place-based approaches will support rural communities to overcome disadvantage caused by population decline, including greater investment in new and redeveloped services and infrastructure.
- Community sport counts: local sport and recreation in Victoria, Sport and Recreation Victoria, Melbourne, Dept. for Victorian Communities, (2005). This series of summary reports provides information on the local sport and recreation scene in Victoria and identified the commonalities and differences between and within Victoria's regions.
- The status of sport in rural and regional Australia: literature, research and policy options, Mugford S, Canberra, Sport Industry Australia, (2001). Comprehensive review of sport in rural and regional Australia. It provides a review of the literature and findings of an online survey. Report found that rural and regional Australia does not exist as a single, meaningful social entity – each area has its own structure and issues. Mugford’s conclusion was “Sport contributes to national identity and well-being. It is also a major source of social capital, especially in rural and regional Australia. However, it is precisely in rural and regional Australia that sport is in trouble - under-funded and declining because of the many difficulties faced by people and institutions in the country. Therefore we should actively support sport in rural and regional Australia and shore up sporting organisations so that they can continue to provide these important services to Australia”
- Country sport report, Western Australian Sports Council, (1987). Report identified the needs and priorities of country sport in Western Australia. Outcomes included the poor dissemination of information throughout country areas, the need to strengthen sports councils at local and regional levels and the administration of grants by regional sports councils rather than Department of Sport and Recreation. The most notable issued raised was providing travel assistance to country areas.
- Sport in Regional Australia. Hosted by Latrobe University, (2015).
- Who's Looking After the Bush. Hosted by Central Queensland University and the Australian Sports Commission, (2002). Conference proceedings were published and focused on developing sport education opportunities in rural and regional Australia.
- Regional Sport and Regional Games Seminar. Hosted by Riverina-Murray Institute of Higher Education (now Charles Sturt University) and the Australian Sports Commission, (1988). Conference proceedings were published and examined issues such as regional games, talent development and participation.
In rural and regional communities, state and local governments are primarily responsible for developing and maintaining sport facilities. The Australian Government has two programs that may assist:
- Community Development Grants Programme. Supports needed infrastructure that promotes stable, secure and viable local and regional economies.
- Building Better Regions Fund (BBRF). Invests in infrastructure or community investment projects located in, or benefiting eligible areas outside the major capital cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and Canberra.
The Clearinghouse Participation Grants and Funding topic provide more detailed information relating to potential funding opportunities from federal, state, and territory governments.
Reports and Plans
- Sports Facility Strategy 2015 – 2020, Lake Macquarie City Council (NSW), (2015).
- Sport and Recreation Strategies, City of Ballara (VIC)t, (accessed 14 October 2020). Strategies include: active women and girls, cycling, lawn bowls, play and open space planning.
- Sport and Recreation Plan, Lockyer Valley Regional Council (QLD), (2014)
- Issues and Directions Paper for Local and Regional Sport and Recreation Facilities, Local Government Recreation Forum (SA), (2009).
Sport and physical activity participation
One of the stated aims of the National Sport and Active Recreation Policy Framework (2011) is to improve participation outcomes to targeted populations which includes rural and remote populations.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) rural and remote Australian reports highlight that on average Australians who live in rural and remote areas have poorer health outcomes—including shorter lives, higher levels of disease and injury, and poorer access to health services—compared to people living in metropolitan areas. Sport and physical activity participation can play a key role in improving physical and mental health outcomes.
The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines are a set of recommendations outlining the minimum levels of physical activity required for health benefits at different ages.
According to the AIHW Insufficient physical activity report (October 2020) a similar proportion of adults (18+) living in all remoteness areas are not meeting the current physical activity guidelines (note: based on an analysis of 2019 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data and includes work related physical activity):
- 55% for outer regional and remote areas
- 53% for inner regional areas
- 54% for major cities.
The AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by the Australian Sports Commission that tracks Australian sport and physical recreation participation behaviours to help inform investment, policy and sport delivery.
Data from 2019 shows that sport and physical recreation participation tends to be highest in major cities and declines for more remote areas. For example the percentage of adults (18+) who participated in sport/physical activity at least once per week was:
- 84% for major cities
- 80.8% for inner regional
- 76,4% for outer regional
- 75.9% for remote or very remote
Children and young people (5-17)
The trends for children and young people (5-17) are slightly different to those of adults.
AusPlay data for children (5-17) shows a very similar trend to adults for participation in organised sport or physical recreation, outside of school hours, with the highest levels of participation being in major cities, and then gradually declining by degree of 'remoteness'.
However, the 2018 AIHW Physical activity across the life stages report showed that the proportion of children (aged 5–12) who met the physical activity guideline was lowest in major cities (23%) and the highest proportion was among those living in inner regional areas (35%).
Young people (aged 13–17) living in outer regional/remote areas were significantly more active, with 18% meeting the physical activity guideline, compared with 6.8% of those living in major cities and 6.2% of those in inner regional areas. This analysis is based on the 2011–12 Australian Health Survey, which is currently the most recent ABS data available on physical activity in children and adolescents.
Factors influencing sport participation
- Building the health promotion capacity of sport and recreation organisations: A case study of Regional Sports Assemblies. Casey M, Payne W, Eime R, Managing Leisure , Volume 14(2), pp.112-124, (2009). This research examined the efficacy of a system-wide, capacity-building strategy implemented to enable sporting organisations to change from a narrow focus on sport to one encompassing health promotion. This involved evaluating a state-wide health promotion program funded by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and implemented within nine Regional Sports Assemblies (RSAs). Research found that health promotion was successfully adopted within sport and recreation environments. It noted the importance of understanding the nature of existing organisational resource dependencies and interdependencies.
- Environmental barriers and enablers to physical activity participation among rural adults: a qualitative study. Cleland V, Clarissa Hughes B , Lukar Thornton, et al. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, Volume 26(2), pp.99-104, (2015). This study explored the environmental factors that act as barriers or facilitators to physical activity participation among rural adults in three regions of rural Tasmania, Australia. It highlighted the importance of shared-use areas, particularly those that were family and dog-friendly. Participants had realistic expectations of what was feasible in rural settings.
- Location, location, location: women’s leisure in rural Australia. Campbell A, Leisure Studies, Volume 32(3), pp.249-263, (2013). This paper investigated the impact of geographical location in shaping the leisure activities of rural women living in the Yass Valley Region of NSW. Research found that the specific geographical location had a strong impact on the types of leisure activities available in which they were able to participate. It concluded the specific geographical location can facilitate or inhibit the degree of involvement in community leisure activities that engender social capital among older women living in these locations.
- Opportunities, Barriers, and Constraints To Physical Activity in Rural Queensland, Australia. Eley R, Bush R, Brown W, Journal of Physical Activity and Health Volume 11(1), pp.68-75, (2014). Research in six diverse rural Queensland shires found that half the respondents failed to meet Australian physical activity guidelines and 1 in 5 reported no activity. Some barriers to physical activity (i.e. family commitments) were similar to those from urban areas. Rural barriers included climate, culture of exercise, and community leadership. It was concluded that the promotion of healthy lifestyle in rural environments need to be tailored to the local community and not necessarily replicate urban programs.
- Sustaining health promotion programs within sport and recreation organisations. Casey M, Payne W, Eime R, Brown S, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 12(1), pp.113-118, (2009). This study explored the factors affecting the sustainability of a sport- and recreation-based health promotion program. A stratified sampling method was used to select four of the nine Regional Sports Assemblies (RSAs) that delivered a state-wide health promotion program funded by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation in Australia. It found that sport and recreation organisations have potential to facilitate health promotion and public health. However, organisational processes, structures, and resources that support long-term health promotion practice need to be effective and efficient.
- VicHealth Research Practice Fellowship –Physical Activity Final report, Eime, Rochelle, Sport and Recreation Spatial, (March 2016). This research report examined participation trends for seven sports - Australian football, tennis, netball, basketball, cricket, hockey and bowls – played in Victoria. Findings related to rural and regional sports included: males (10-14 years) from non-metropolitan areas had the highest participation rate ; there was an increase in participation rate from 2010 to 2012 for non-metropolitan compared to metropolitan people ; non-metropolitan participation compared to metropolitan areas was higher during adolescence (14–18 years) and throughout mature adulthood (30+ years) ; rates of regular physical activity participation decreased as remoteness increased ; and the rate of participation for Australian football, cricket, netball, hockey, bowls and fishing was higher as geographical remoteness increased.
- ‘You're no-one if you're not a netball girl’: rural and regional adolescent girls’ negotiation of physically active identities. Mooney A, Casey M, Smyth J, Annals of Leisure Research, Volume 15(1), pp.19-37, (2012). This paper reported data collected through interviews and focus group sessions with 138 females ranging from 14 to 16 years of age across six rural and regional communities in the state of Victoria. It examined the impact that dominant discourse-power relations operating in the context of rural and regional sport and physical education can have in the negotiation of physically active identities for adolescent girls.
- Competitive sport and the construction of place identity in rural Australia, Tonts M, Atherley K, Sport in Society, Volume 13(3), pp.381-398, (2010). This paper explored the notion that competitive sport is a central component of Australian rural life. Through a case study of two rural communities in Western Australia, it demonstrated that sport does indeed contribute to the formation of place identity through diverse local and regional social interactions, practices and memories.
- Expanding social inclusion in community sports organizations: evidence from rural Australian Football clubs, Frost L, Lightbody M, Halabi A, Journal of Sport Management, Volume 27(6), pp.453-466, (2013). This paper utilised the evidence from the Parliament of Victoria’s Inquiry into Country Football (2004) to explore the current focus of rural Australian Football clubs regarding social inclusion, in the light of changes occurring in society in general and in rural towns in particular in the 21st century. It found that country football clubs have become more family friendly particularly with their merger with netball clubs. In addition, women are taking on leadership roles in this new environment.
- The glue that holds the community together? Sport and sustainability in rural Australia. Spaaij R. Sport in Society, Volume 12(9), pp.1132-1146, (2009). This research examined the forms of social capital that are created in and through rural sport in northwest Victoria. It found that rural sport participants viewed local sport clubs as vital community hubs fostering social cohesion, local and regional identities and a shared focus and outlet. It found that structural changes in the region increased opportunities for other people, including young women, to take on leadership roles and to develop new skills and knowledge through sport participation.
- Warlpiri warriors: Australian Rules football in Central Australia, Mackinnon B, Campbell L, Sport in Society, Volume 15(7), pp.965-974, (2012). Yuendumu, located in the Tanami desert of the Northern Territory, is home to the largest Warlpiri community in Australia. This study examined the role of Australian Rules football in this remote indigenous community. Football in Yuendumu was revealed as a vehicle for social cohesion, group identity, pride and joy, and as an expression of manhood, enabling its young men to see themselves as modern-day Warlpiri warriors.
- Alive and Kicking Goals!: Preliminary Findings from a Kimberley Suicide Prevention Program, Tighe J, Mckay, K, Advances in Mental Health, Volume 10(3), pp.240-245, (2012). Alive and Kicking Goals! (AKG) was a pilot program in the Kimberley, Western Australia that took an innovative approach to suicide prevention peer education. This region has high suicide rates in young indigenous males. Players from the Broome Saints Football Club undertook training in suicide prevention in order to become Peer Educators (PEs) for the Kimberley region. At the conclusion of the pilot, 16 young men became PEs where they were equipped with practical skills in suicide awareness and prevention.
- Australian rural football club leaders as mental health advocates: an investigation of the impact of the Coach the Coach project, Pierce D, Siaw-Teng L, Dobell J, Anderson R, International Journal of Mental Health System, Volume 4, 10, (2010). Reported on research on the 'Coach the Coach' program, in which Australian rural football clubs were the setting and football coaches the leaders in providing greater mental health awareness and capacity to support early help seeking behaviour among young males experiencing mental health difficulties, especially depression. It was found that more than 50% of trained club coaches showed increased capacity to recognise mental illness and 66% reported increased confidence to respond to mental health difficulties in others. The benefits to players through this program was less obvious.
- Mental health in rural and remote Australia: fact sheet, National Rural Health Alliance. fact sheet, (April 2015). Despite a similar prevalence of mental illness in urban and country areas, the lack of access to mental health services and a reluctance to seek help contribute to the fact that rates of self-harm and suicide increase with remoteness. Specifically, poorer access to a GP and specialised mental health services, a fear of the stigma associated with mental illness, and socio-economic factors compound difficulties in treating mental health issues in more remote areas. Young men, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, farmers and older people are noted as groups particularly vulnerable to poor mental health and higher rates of suicide.
- Rural and remote health, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, (last updated 22 October 2019). On average, Australians living in rural and remote areas have shorter lives, higher levels of disease and injury and poorer access to and use of health services, compared with people living in metropolitan areas. Poorer health outcomes in rural and remote areas may be due to multiple factors including lifestyle differences and a level of disadvantage related to education and employment opportunities, as well as access to health services.
- Stawell Gift. Started in 1878, is a professional athletics meeting held during Easter at Stawell, Victoria. It is Australia's richest professional sprinting event.
- Herald Sun Tour. Cycling event first held in 1952 and traverses different regions in Victoria. It is currently held in early February.
- Bathurst 1000. Held at Mount Panorama, Bathurst since 1963 and colloquially known as 'The Great Race' among motorsport fans and media.
- Port Macquarie Ironman. Established in 1985 in NSW North Coast town of Port Macquarie. The event consists of a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike course and 42.2 km run.
- Tasmanian Christmas Carnivals. A series of carnivals consisting of track running, velodrome cycling and woodchopping held in towns in Northern Tasmania. Since the 1880’s they are held directly after Christmas Day and include the prestigious Burnie Gift.
- Murray Valley Canoe Marathon. Began in 1969 when 10 friends decided to raise money for the Australian Red Cross. It starts in Yarrawonga, Victoria and finishes in Swan Hill, Victoria. The event is now held in late November.
- Alice Springs Masters Games. Established in 1986. Several other regions have established their own Games and these include: Maryborough Masters Games, Great Barrier Reef Masters Games, Lismore Workers Masters Games and Barellan Masters Games. The Australian Masters Games were held in Newcastle in 2001 and will be held in North West Tasmania 2017.
- Australian Football League. Plays pre-season games in country areas and plays premiership games in Alice Springs and Cairns.
- National Rugby League. Historically has played City v Country games and frequently holds NRL games in regional communities.
- Cricket Australia. Occasionally hold Sheffield Shield games in regional communities and Alice Springs hosts their annual Impajra Cup
- Australian Rugby Union. National Rugby Championship includes two country teams - New South Wales Country Eagles and Queensland Country and they play matches in regional cities.
- Basketball Australia. NBL includes teams from Cairns and Wollongong; and WNBL includes teams from Townsville and Bendigo.
- Football Federation of Australia. A-League includes teams from Newcastle and the Central Coast and W-League a team from Newcastle.
- Assessing the contribution of a major cycle race to host communities in South Australia. Mackellar J, Jamieson N, Leisure Studies, Volume 34(5), pp.547-565, (2015) and Sport Tourism Events as Community Builders—How Social Capital Helps the “Locals” Cope, Journal of Convention and Event Tourism, Volume 15(1), pp.57-68, (2014). These papers examined the process of event development and the impact upon social interactions in seven rural communities in the 2012 Tour Down Under cycling race in Australia. It explored the role of the Tour Down Under event in stimulating community interaction and social capital. A model of sport event development was utilised to explain the impact of the event development process on community relations in this rural context. It discussed the issues of managing the relationships between communities and event management.
- Engaging business in regional sport events, Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT), (June 2014). More than 1,000 regional sport events are held in Australia each year, ranging from small contest with 100 competitors to national championships attracting thousands. One event can contribute AU$12 million to the economy.
- Additional research being conducted by GIFT in this area includes 'More than just a game? The impact of GC2018 on social-psychological well-being of the community'.
- Events: Drivers of regional tourism – Summary August 2014, Austrade, Tourism Research Australia, (2014). This summary provides brief information on regional events, particularly sport spectator events, as key potential events to drive tourism.
- Festival places : revitalising rural Australia, Gibson C, Connell J (eds), Channel View Publications, (2011). This book examined how several festivals in Australian rural areas contribute to tourism, community and a rural sense of belonging. Specifically, it examined youth surfing carnivals.
- Reinventing rural places: the extent and impact of festivals in rural and regional Australia, Gibson C, Stewart A, University of Wollongong, (2009). This Australian Research Council project examined festivals from 2005-2008 in rural and regional Australia through a database profile of festivals across three states (NSW, Victoria and Tasmania). Sport made up 36.5 % of festivals captured. Information was collected on job creation, volunteerism, marketing and advertising, environment and community. This research will assist those planning sporting events in rural and regional communities.
- When the spin stops…it’s more than a bike race : an exploratory study of the role of a sport tourism event, the Tour Down Under, in building social capital in rural South Australia, Jamison, NI, PhD Thesis, Lismore, Southern Cross University, (2012). This thesis examined& seven South Australian towns and the role a particular sport tourism event, cycling's Tour Down Under (TDU), played in building the social capital of the community involved. The author found that "the TDU contributed to the building of bonding social capital in the communities investigated but had a negligible effect on the bridging social capital".
- World Rally Championship 2009: assessing the community impacts on a rural town in Australia. Mackellar J. Sport in Society, Volume 16(9), pp.1149-1163, (2013). This paper examined the perceived social impacts of the 2009 World Rally Championship on the small community of Kyogle, NSW during the event's Australian stage. The results suggest that while the event was predominantly perceived to have benefited the community, community division was also identified as a significant issue, which provided negative publicity and management issues for the event organizer and the host government, and affected the continued management and location of the event.
- An Exploration of a Niche Sport Event’s Role in Visitors’ Perception of a Rural Destination: The Case of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, Robertson M, Newland BL, Darby P, International Journal of Sport Management, Volume 15(2), pp.193-218, (2014). This article investigated whether a niche sport event in a rural location influenced visitor perceptions of a destination. A case study of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Fort William, Scotland was used. The investigation explored the ways in which mountain bike tourists construct perceptions of both the event and the destination. The findings suggest that the initial creation of meanings is helpful to establish the destination as a mountain bike destination.
- Special Considerations in Medical Screening for Participants in Remote Endurance Events. Joslin J, et al. Sports Medicine, Volume 45(8), pp.1121-1131, (2015). Sporting events can be held in remote locations. This paper emphasises the importance to screen participants for potentially problematic medical conditions.
- The Use of an Event Portfolio in Regional Community and Tourism Development: Creating Synergy between Sport and Cultural Events. Ziakas V, Costa CA, Journal of Sport and Tourism, Volume 16(2), pp.149-175, (2011). This research was conducted in the rural community of Fort Stockton, Texas. The study argued that a holistic approach in event portfolio planning can integrate economic, sport, and tourism, as well as social development purposes and foster synergies between sport and cultural events.
- Increasing trend in the frequency of sports injuries treated at an Australian regional hospital, Wong Shee, A, Clapperton A, Finch CF, Australian Journal of Rural Health, Volume 25(2), pp.127-127, (2016). Study examined data from the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit for one regional hospital for the financial years 2003/04 to 2011/12. Found that there were significant increases in both the number of sports injury hospital admissions and Emergency Department presentations over time. The reasons for the increasing trends in sports injuries are likely to be multifaceted, including changes in the risk of injury, sports participation or data completeness/accuracy over time.
- Rural v metro: geographical differences in sports injury hospital admissions across Victoria, Wong Shee, A, Clapperton A, Finch CF, Medical Journal of Australia, Volume 203(7), p.288, (2015).
This study found there was a higher rate of sports injury hospital admissions for people residing in rural/regional compared to metropolitan areas. This could be due to a number of factors that are different for people residing in metropolitan areas: hospital administrative practices, health care accessibility, level/nature of sports injury risk, or sports participation levels.
- Sport/leisure injury hospitalisation rates—Evidence for an excess burden in remote areas, Finch, CF, Boufous S, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 12(6), pp.628-632, (2009). Examined the relationship between selected sociodemographic and geographic characteristics and the rate of sport/leisure hospitalisations across New South Wales.Found that residents from remote and very remote had significantly higher hospitalisation rates than other parts of the state. The reasons for this finding were unclear but could include differences in sport/leisure infrastructure, participation levels and the provision of medical and allied health services across regions.
- Sport safety policies and practices in two rural Victorian communities, Casey M, Finch CF, Mahoney M. Townsend M, Journal of Science & Medicine in Sport, Volume 7(2), pp.226-231, (2004). This exploratory study reported on the sport safety policies and practices adopted by junior Australian football and netball clubs in small rural communities. The authors found that critical factors influencing safety policies and practices were the reliance on volunteers and a lack of senior players. Barriers towards the adoption of safety policies and practices appeared to be related to rural population declines, a lack of qualified people, and attitudes to injury in rural areas.
Programs and Practices
- Beach to Bush Program. This program is the largest educational initiative ever undertaken by surf life saving in Australia. It was the outcome of research conducted by Surf Life Saving Australia, which highlighted that 50% of people rescued from the surf lived more than 50km from the beach. The program has been running successfully in NSW since 1994 and went national in 2003.
- Community gyms a step by step guide for the establishment of not-for-profit community gyms in rural and regional South Australia, Government of South Australia - Office for Recreation and Sport, (2011). Resource provides relevant information, case studies, research and resource links to motivate and assist regional and rural communities throughout South Australia to consider a community gym as a means of providing alternative low cost physical activities.
High performance sport
Rural and regional communities play an important role in developing high performance athletes.
- AFL. AFL Victoria Country Championships
- Basketball. Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup (ACJBC). The first cup was held in 1985. In 2014, there were 64 teams with more than 700 players, coaches and officials taking part including teams from Western Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand in the under 14, 16 and 18 age groups.
- Cricket. Australia Country Cricket Championships. The Championships have proved to be a successful breeding ground for Australian test players. Approximately 45% of Australia's cricketing talent has been drawn from country regions, the most famous being Sir Donald Bradman. These Championships have included players such as Michael Bevan, Shaun Tait and Andy Bichel who have gone on to represent Australia.
- Rugby League. NSW Country Rugby League Regional Championships. Covers Under 14, 16 and 18 age groups
- Rugby Union. National Rugby Championship. Includes country teams from New South Wales and Queensland
- Tennis. Australian Made Foundation Cup. Cup provides young people from rural and regional Australia the opportunity to compete nationally. The event forms part of the Australian Made Summer of Tennis. In recent years, elite players such as Australian Open and Wimbledon Junior Champion Luke Saville and Australian Fed Cup player Jessica Moore have participated in the event.
Regional Academies of Sport
Regional academy programs are funded through state governments. They have close working relationships with their respective State Institute/Academy of Sport, but maintain their own governance structure. They work cooperatively with State Sporting Organisations (SSOs) to provide additional athlete support, training, and competition opportunities for talented youth between the ages of 12 and 18 years.
- Central Coast Academy of Sport (Mingara)
- Hunter Academy of Sport (Newcastle)
- Illawarra Academy of Sport (Wollongong)
- North Coast Academy of Sport (Lismore)
- Northern Inland Academy of Sport (Tamworth)
- South West Sydney Academy of Sport (Campbelltown)
- Southern Sports Academy (Wagga Wagga)
- Western Region Academy of Sport (Bathurst)
- Western Sydney Academy of Sport (Parramatta)
- Queensland Academy of Sport operates an office out of Townsville.
- The Gold Coast Academy of Sport (GCAS) is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to offer the community inclusive sports development programs for youth who are committed to high achievement. The Academy is the first in Queensland. The business partners of the GCAS include the Gold Coast City Council, local business on the Gold Coast and a host of other corporate sponsors.
- Barwon Sports Academy (Geelong)
- Bendigo Bank Academy of Sport (Bendigo)
- Gippsland Sports Academy (Newborough)
- SouthWest Academy of Sport (Warrnambool)
- Sunraysia Academy of Sport (Mildura)
- University of Ballarat, WestVic Academy of Sport (Ballarat)
- Mid West Academy of Sport (MWAS) (Geraldton). Promotes, develops and services sporting talent (athletes, coaches and officials) throughout the Mid West Region of Western Australia. The Academy concept was proven to be financially viable and has continued to attract support from the WA Department of Sport and Recreation with local businesses also providing a significant in-kind and financial support.
- South West Academy of Sport (SWAS) (Bunbury). Is styled after the Western Australian Institute of Sport and successful regional models in the eastern states of Australia. It supports identified SWAS athletes to their reach potential through identified pathways and programs delivered in the South West with support services such as nutrition, fitness, injury prevention and mental skills training to hold them in good stead for a future in sport.
- Mackay, Queensland– Cathy Freeman (Athletics), Geoff Huegill (Swimming), Linda McKenzie (Swimming), Benita Johnson (Athletics), Nicole Pratt (Tennis), Sandra Brondello (Basketball).
- Bendigo, Victoria - Kristi Harrower (Basketball), Sharelle McMahon (Netball), Glenn Saville (Basketball), Faith Leech (Swimming), Billy Murdoch and Don Blackie (Cricket)
Research - Improving the Identification and Development of Australia's Sporting Talent
In 2010, an Australian Research Council Research Grantwas awarded to further investigate the issue of talent development 'hot spots' in regional and rural communities raised by the 'Wagga effect' thesis. The Improving determinants of Australian sports talent identification and development: a multi-disciplinary approach grant was managed by Griffith University and involved the Australian Football League, Australian Sports Commission, Cricket Australia, and Tennis Australia. Research outcomes include:
- The impacts of transport accessibility and remoteness on Australian Football League (AFL) talent production: findings from the ‘Talent Tracker’ project, Burke M, Woolcock G, Australasian Transport Research Forum, ATRF 2012 - Proceedings, (2012). Authors researched AFL players from 1997-2010 to identify their place of junior development, defined as the club or school where they were registered whilst playing during the ages of 11 to 15. Study found that as transport accessibility increases and remoteness decreases, a region is more likely to produce talented AFL players. But the strength of the association is limited. The research raised questions about locations such as the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, as to what has allowed them to produce so many AFL players? Is there something about transport and the sports landscape at the regional scale that allows them to overcome these problems? Or are other non-spatial factors – such as the Western Australian Football League’s considerable investment in regional and remote community development – working to overcome these limitations?
- Improving the identification and development of Australia’s sporting talent, Toohey K, Funk D, Woolcock G, MacMahon C, Hahn A, Auld C, Farrow D, Bauman A, Weissensteiner J and Gulbin J, Australian Research Council Linkage Project, LP1001000324 (April 2015). Report identified and analysed the individual, combined and interactive effects of athlete, environmental and system determinants of talented athlete identification, confirmation and development (TID) in Australia. The research team investigated environmental, psychological, socio-cultural and developmental attributes previously overlooked in research specific to athlete recruitment and development. Findings from this research project provide sport organisations with strong evidence to help them refine their TID strategies, resource provision, and program design. This research represents a significant step towards a more detailed and nuanced understanding of sport participation and pre-elite development than has previously been undertaken in the Australian context.
- Improving the Identification and Development of Australia's Sporting Talent Symposium, Australian Institute of Sport, (10 December 2014). The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) hosted this Symposium as part of the ‘Sporting Talent’ research program, enabled through an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant. This project, led by Professor Kristine Toohey from Griffith University, represents one of the most comprehensive analyses of talent identification and development ever conducted. The project has been running for four years, over which time the research team has collaborated to understand how a number of factors may influence the identification and development of athletes, including community environments, athlete development and training, social and organisational factors, and psychology and participation.
- Measuring spatial variations in sports talent development: the approach, methods and measures of ‘Talent Tracker’, Woolcock G, Burke M, Australian Geographer, Volume 44(1), (2013). Paper in Griffith University Online provided data from AFL draft records, informants and secondary sources identified the place of junior talent development for the 1,290 players who were drafted and played at least one game of senior AFL football in the period 1997-2010. Data is displayed by regions throughout Australia.
- AFL Talent Hotspots and the 'Wagga Effect' [video], Associate Professor Geoff Woolcock, Smart Talk Presentation, Australian Institute of Sport, (18 March 2009). The 'Wagga Effect', a term used frequently in the Australian media to describe the disproportionately large number of elite sportsmen and women that originate from the city of Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales, highlights that not enough is known about why this occurs in Wagga Wagga or other similar sport development 'hotspots'. It is generally acknowledged that critical social factors such as family upbringing and the socio-economic status of resident communities are likely predictors of sporting talent development but in Australia, aside from a few ad hoc and sport-specific case studies, little rigorous and longitudinal empirical data has been collected and collated to advance causal claims in this area. It is speculated - via the 'Wagga Effect' - that the phenomenon may arise in rural areas where the population is large enough to sustain the presence of a large number of sporting codes, but small enough to ensure that talented individuals are exposed to adult-level competition at an earlier age. However, this speculation remains just that in the absence of rigorous data collection and analysis across a range of sports. Associate Professor Geoff Woolcott presented his findings of a pilot study looking at AFL talent hotspots.
- First club location and relative age as influences on being a professional Australian rugby league player, Cobley S, Hanratty M, O’Connor D, Cotton W, International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, Volume 9(2), pp.335-346, (2014). This research found that players who began their participation as juniors in a country club are statistically overrepresented in the National Rugby League (NRL) competition. It examined the ages and first clubs of NRL players' between 1998 and 2010. The findings supported the idea that small rural communities have a more beneficial playing or social environment that helps to nurture professional players in the long-term. More than 16 per cent of professional NRL players started as a junior in a town with a population less than 10,000 people.
- Review of Football in Country Victoria,Peter Jackson, AFL Victoria, (2011) Highlighted that country Victoria has provided 22% (279 of a total of 1281) of the draftees into the AFL competition since 1997.