The Australian sport and active recreation sector has many players and moving parts. It is strongly influenced by other leading service sectors including government, community, education, health, retail, media and broadcast, and tourism and entertainment.
It can be difficult to see where the sport sector begins and ends—particularly when you consider intersecting themes such as active and outdoor recreation, fitness, physical activity and preventative health. However, the structure of sport in Australia can provide some insight into how the sector connects and operates from a peak national to local grassroots level.
Australian governments at all levels play a leading role in delivering sport and sport related policies and programs. This includes providing support and funding to sporting organisations, clubs and individuals, being major investors and contributors to building and maintaining sports related infrastructure, and sponsoring the hosting of major sports events.
Australian sporting organisations and sports clubs—many operating as not-for-profit entities—play a pivotal role in the delivery of sport.
Other significant contributors to the sector include schools and universities; peak sports bodies and advocacy groups; participants, whether in a playing, coaching, officiating, or administrative capacity (in a paid or volunteer basis); retailers of sporting goods and equipment; media, publishing and news agencies; health, fitness, and medical practitioners; and many other service providers, organisations, and community groups.
Organised or otherwise, sport is very much community based in Australia, and the many benefits of sport participation to individuals and communities are well documented.
System governance map – sport and active recreation
|Commonwealth Minister for Sport||Commonwealth Ministers|
|Department of Health||
Commonwealth Government Departments|
(example: Education, Tourism, Environment)
Australian Sports Commission|
(AIS and Sport Australia)
Australian Sports Foundation|
Sport Integrity Australia
|State and Territory Ministers for Sport and Recreation||State and Territory Ministers|
|State and Territory Departments / Offices of Sport and Recreation||
State and Territory Government Departments|
(example: Education, Tourism, Environment)
|State and Territory Institutes / Academies of Sport||Venue Management Trusts|
|Australian Local Government Associations|
State Local Government Associations
(example: Councils across Australia)
National Peak Advocacy & Representative Bodies for Sport
(example: WSA, COMPPS, AAA CAS)
National Sport Delivery
(Example: NSOs, Professional/Elite Sport)
National Peak Advocacy & Representative Bodies for Active Recreation
(example: PLA, Fitness Australia ACHPER)
|National Industry Specialist Organisations / Committees (example: AOC, PA, CGA, SMA, ANZSLA, ESSA)|
State & Territory Peak Advocacy & Representative Bodies for Sport
(Example: VicSport, WASF, Sport NSW)
State & Territory Sport Delivery
(example: Regional Academies, SSOs)
State & Territory Peak Advocacy & Representative Bodies for Active Recreation
(example: Outdoors WA, VicHealth)
|State & Territory Industry Specialist Organisations / Committees (example: State Olympic Councils)|
|Sports clubs, schools and higher education institutions||
Active recreation clubs, commercial providers, municipalities, community groups|
(example: YMCA, PCYC, parkrun)
The Sport and Recreation Community|
(example: Participants, coaches, officials, administrators, spectators, volunteers)
The Australian Government is committed to supporting sport in Australia from grassroots to elite.
State and Territory governments
State and Territory governments develop and implement policies and programs with a focus on community sport and active recreation.
High performance peak bodies
National Institute Network (NIN)
Comprises the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the eight State and Territory Institutes and Academies of Sport (SIS/SAS).
Peak advocacy and professional bodies
Confederation of Australian Sport (CAS)
An independent, not-for-profit industry voice committed to promoting the contribution of community sport.
Community Sport Australia
Represents issues affecting community sport and active recreation in Australia.
Sport and active recreation clubs
Sport and active recreation clubs make sport accessible to the Australian community.
Schools play a very important role in making sport accessible to children and young people.
Tertiary education providers play an important role in delivering sport across the Australian sport sector.
Further resources and reading
- Australian sport - better by design: the evolution of Australian sport policy, Stewart B, Routledge, (2004).
- Australia's sporting success: the inside story, Bloomfield J, University of NSW Press, (2003). John Bloomfield is a former Chairman of the Australian Institute of Sport.
- Elite sport and sport-for-all: Bridging the two cultures?, Richard Bailey and Margaret Talbot (eds.), Routledge, (2015).
- More than sunshine and vegemite: success the Australian way, Ferguson J, Halstead Press, (2006).
- Quest for excellence: the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, Daly J.A, Australian Government Publishing Service, (1991). John Daly is a former Board Member of the AIS.
- Sport Integrity Australia Act 2020
- Sport Integrity Australia Regulations 2020
- Australian Sports Commission Act 1989
- Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Sports anti-siphoning laws in Australia)
- Major Sporting Events (Indicia and Images) Protection Act 2014
- National Sports Tribunal Act 2019
- Olympic Insignia Protection Act 1987
- AusPlay Survey (AusPlay) is a large scale national population tracking survey funded and led by Sport Australia that tracks Australian sport and physical activity participation behaviours to help inform investment, policy and sport delivery. Results are updated every 6 months.
- The Future of Australian Sport. The ASC commissioned the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to identify the six megatrends likely to shape the Australian sports sector over the next 30 years. The 'Future of Australian Sport' online resource includes the report, a video, and a podcast that outline the methodology and findings of the research.
- Intergenerational review of Australian sport 2017, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for the Australian Sports Commission, (2017). This review focused on the overall sports sector, with a particular emphasis on participation in sport and community level sport. While the synergies between participation and high performance sporting outcomes are recognised as being important to any discussion about the value of sport, the ASC’s high performance strategy is reviewed as part of the Olympic cycle. A separate, deeper analysis of the high performance sports system, including the AIS strategy and future direction of the AIS campus, commenced prior to the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. This analysis includes an evaluation of individual sports' abilities to contribute to high performance outcomes. The outcomes of this analysis will complement this review.
- Sports funding: federal balancing act, Dr Rhonda Jolly, Social Policy Section, Parliamentary Library, (June 2013). Detailed description of Australian sport policy including policies and government funding.
- Organisation of sport in Australia, Wikipedia, (accessed 11 November 2020). The organisation of sport in Australia has been largely determined and shaped by Australian governments at all levels, that is the Australian Government, the State and Territory Governments, and Local Governments.
Licencing restrictions apply to some resources listed below.
All Clearinghouse members
'Australian' members only
'High Performance' members only Restricted access Various restrictions
Please see Clearinghouse membership categories for further information.
- An audience with the Hon Bob Ellicott QC, The Hon Bob Ellicott QC, former Federal Minister for Home Affairs and the Capital Territory (1977–1981) with responsibility for sport. (9 April 2013)
- 30th Anniversary Series, Greg Blood reflects, Reflection on the development of the AIS and ASC over three periods of time. Smart Talk Seminar Series, Australian Institute of Sport (8 December 2011)
- Reflecting on the AIS 1987-2000, Dr Ross Smith, former Acting AIS Director (1987-1990), Head of AIS Sports Medicine and Science (1990-2000). Smart Talk Seminar Series, Australian Institute of Sport (8 September 2011)
- Don Talbot Reflects on the AIS and the development of Australian Sport, Don Talbot, AO, inaugural Director of the AIS (1980–1983) and Australian Swimming Head Coach (1989–2001), Smart Talk Seminar Series, Australian Institute of Sport (29 March 2011)
- Reflecting on the development of the AIS Track and Field program, Craig Hilliard, Senior Coach AIS Track and Field program, Australian Institute of Sport Smart Talk seminar series, Canberra, (28 February 2011)
- Reflecting on the development of AIS Physiology Services and Research, Professor David Pyne, Senior Physiologist, AIS Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport Smart Talk seminar series, Canberra, (21 February 2011)
- Insider’s view of UK Sport’s Elite Sport Performance Research in Training (ESPIRIT) Project, Dale Bickham, researcher with Queen Mary University of London working in partnership with the UK Sport’s ESPIRIT Project, Australian Institute of Sport Smart Talk seminar series, Canberra, (14 February 2011)
- Australian Coaches international tour of elite sporting organisations, Presenters: Patrick Hunt (AIS Elite Performance); Neil Craig (AFL); Jimmy Owens (Sprint Canoe); Shaun Stephens (Triathlon); Katrina Powell (Hockey); Paul Goriss (Basketball); Sue Gaudion (Netball); Hui Tong (Diving), Australian Institute of Sport Smart Talk seminar series, Canberra, (08 February 2011)
- The last of the amateurs: Australian sport during the 1950's and 1960's, Greg Blood, Information Services, National Sport Information Centre Smart Talk Seminar Series, Australian Institute of Sport (7 April 2008)