Cultural Diversity in Sport

Cultural Diversity in Sport         
Prepared by  Prepared by: Christine May, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia
evaluated by  Evaluation by: Dr Paul Oliver, Director, Oliver and Thompson Consultancy (November 2017), Dr Andrew Bennie, Director Academic Program, Health & Physical Education, Western Sydney University (January 2018).
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated:  16 July 2018
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Australia is often described as a culturally diverse, or multicultural, country. It is home to the world’s oldest continuous cultures (Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peoples), but has also embraced significant levels of migration throughout its more recent history.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS):

  • 28.5% of Australian were born overseas;
  • Almost 50% of Australians have parents born in other countries; 
  • Over 260 languages are spoken; 
  • Almost 20% of Australians have some form of a disability; 
  • Up to 11 in 100 Australians may have a diverse sexual orientation, sex, or gender identity; and
  • Just over half of our population are female.

[sources: ABS: 3235.0 - Population by Age and Sex, Regions of Australia, 2015 (August 2016); 3412.0 - Migration, Australia, 2015-16 (March 2017); 4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia:Summary of Findings, 2015 (October 2016), Face the facts: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People statistics, Australian Human Rights Commission infographic, (2014).]

Sport and physical activity play an important role in our communities by promoting social inclusion and community well-being. However, sport can also promote exclusion and place unnecessary barriers to greater community participation.

Key Messages 


Australia has a diverse multicultural population and sport participation in many of its regions reflects this diversity.


Sport can be used for positive social change—it can help build more inclusive, healthier, happier, and safer communities.


Sporting organisations and sports clubs should continually seek to identify barriers that may preclude people from participating in their sport.


More inclusive practices in sports can assist with growing the participant base and in improving community physical, social, mental, and spiritual health and well-being.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) defines culture as a:

complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by [a human] as a member of society.Cultural Diversity, UNESCO, accessed 6 November 2017]

At its simplest therefore, ‘cultural diversity’ or ‘multiculturalism’ is the peaceful co-existence of people from different behaviours, traditions, and customs.

In 2001 the UNESCO General Assembly adopted the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (PDF  - 789 KB). The Declaration states that cultural diversity is a cornerstone of fundamental human rights and freedoms. Additionally it highlights the importance of cultural diversity to human society, enterprise, and development, with suggesting that it is “as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature” [Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General UNESCO, p.2]. 

Multicultural policies aim to realise an Australia society characterised by an enhanced degree of social justice and economic efficiency. In March 2017 the Australian Government re-affirmed its commitment to a culturally diverse and harmonious society with the release of the Multicultural Australia: United, Strong,Successful statement, which sets clear strategic direction and priorities for multicultural policy.

What is multiculturalism?

As a public policy ‘multiculturalism’ has existed in Australia since post-1945 (following the post-World War 2 immigration influx), although the emphasis and focus of policy have shifted over time.

In general ‘multiculturalism’ encompasses government measures designed to respond to the diversity of cultures that exist within our society in the interests of the individual and society as a whole.

The Commonwealth Government has identified three dimensions of multicultural policy:

  • cultural identity: the right of all Australians, within carefully defined limits, to express and share their individual cultural heritage, including their language and religion;
  • social justice: the right of all Australians to equality of treatment and opportunity, and the removal of barriers of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, language, gender, or place of birth; and
  • economic efficiency: the need to maintain, develop, and effectively utilise the skills and talents of all Australians, regardless of background.

[source: What is multiculturalism, Australian Government, Department of Social Services, (last updated 7 November 2014)]

What is inclusion?

Inclusion has a broad range of definitions and means different things to different people. Sport Australia (formerly the Australian Sports Commission) described inclusion as: 

providing a range of options to cater for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, in the most appropriate manner possible. Australian Sports Commission, Inclusion in Sport Fact Sheet

Inclusive sports organisations follow best practice principles and cater for a range of backgrounds, cultures, ages, and abilities to ensure that everyone who wishes to participate has the opportunity to do so.

  • 7 Pillars of Inclusion: Helping sport with inclusion and diversity - find out where you stand! Play By The Rules, (December 2016). The 7 Pillars of Inclusion is a unique tool to help sports organisations identify strengths and weaknesses around the inclusion of disadvantaged populations into what they do. The Pillars represent the common areas of Inclusion - giving a framework to use as a starting point. Play by the Rules and Swimming Australia developed the 7 Pillars as the basis of an Inclusive Framework for the aquatic industry. Since then other sport, such as Netball Australia, are using the 7 Pillars to develop strategies to address inclusion more broadly.
  • The 7 Pillars of Inclusion, Peter Downs, Play By The Rules/LinkedIn, (1 November 2016). Blog post provides an overview of the context in which the framework evolved in Australia and the rationale behind the development; the assumption that a common language and framework would help alleviate duplication and provide a ‘starting point’ for strategy development. 

Inclusion often gets mixed or interchanged with diversity. Organisations can be diverse in many ways (i.e. they can have members with differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, or religion), but that doesn’t automatically mean that they have created an inclusive environment. Diversity is simply a mix of different types of people, but inclusion facilitates that mix of people working well together. 

Interconnected with this is the concept of ‘culture’, the behaviours, practices, and relationships which are in embedded in organisations. Inclusive organisations accept differences and work to create an environment and culture that fosters unique talents and outcomes. 

Why does inclusion matter?

Sport is widely regarded as a core element of social inclusion in Australian communities. It can provide opportunities for diverse groups to interact on a social level, and build relationships and understanding between people from different classes, ages, and ethnic backgrounds.

Participating in sporting activities or as part of a club can contribute to an individual or group’s sense of belonging, and promote trust, cooperation, and tolerance. The social interactions, networks, and sense of community created through sport remain a very powerful force.

However, sport is not immune from wider societal issues such as discrimination and racism, and it can also play a role in reproducing division and exclusion on the field, in the stands, and in online environments.

Just as there is racial discrimination within Australian society, so too there remains discrimination because of race within Australian sport . . . just as there are stereotypes that reinforce racist conceptions of peoples in Australian society, so too there exist stereotypes that reinforce racist conceptions in sport. Darren Godwell, Sporting Symbolism on an International Stage: The Right to Appeal to Humanity, University of New South Wales Law Journal, Volume 22(3), (1999)

When sport is managed well it can powerfully contribute to social inclusion; when done badly, it can exclude just as powerfully. 

Sports’ changing role in promoting inclusion and diversity

Despite a strong migrant history in Australia many of the major sports have remained relatively monocultural [source: Tracy Taylor, The rhetoric of exclusion: perspectives of cultural diversity in Australian netballJournal of Sport & Social Issues, Volume 28(4), (November 2004), p.456].

However, approaches and organisations have changed substantially in more recent years and sport now often plays a critical role in promoting multiculturalism and the settlement experience of migrants and refugees into local communities. There are now many targeted national, state, territory, and local government programs as well as National Sporting Organisation (NSO) approaches that promote diversity and inclusion.

  • TIC TALK 31: A podcast with Aaron Dragwidge, The Inclusion Club, (December 2016). Aaron Dragwidge is the Disability Engagement Specialist with Cricket Australia. Aaron has been one of the driving forces behind Cricket Australia’s Sport For All initiative and, in particular, their rapidly growing disability inclusion programs.  He is transforming Cricket’s approach to the inclusion of people with disability and has a passion for inclusion and human rights – perfect for a great TIC TALK podcast! 

Many NSOs have community engagement and inclusion programs and use their reach, brand, and ambassadors as a vehicle for their sporting communities to be better educated and encourage diversity and inclusion. They also aim to deliver social change in the wider community through a raft of strategies, programs, events, and education. 

The benefits of diversity and inclusion in sport

There are many benefits for sports to include a broad range of people, these include:

  • Increasing membership – which can improve financial stability.
  • More players – which can add new levels of competition.
  • More volunteers, and more expertise (skills) – from a wider network of community family and friends, adding richness and diversity to the environment.
  • More expertise in officiating, coaching and/or administration.
  • Greater social benefits – forming and maintaining new relationships and bonds.
  • Closer engagement with the wider community, businesses, and potential sponsors.
  • Good, positive stories to share with traditional and social media.
  • A fresher, more vibrant organisation – new people can bring new ideas, innovation, flexibility, and creativity.

The business case for diversity and inclusion is also compelling. If people are choosing sporting codes based on diversity and inclusiveness this becomes a critical factor in growing the customer (and sponsorship) base for the sport, ensuring on-going commercial viability. 

In terms of workplace diversity and recruitment within sporting organisations the research is clear. A study by the European Commission found that 83% of the 495 businesses surveyed agreed that diversity initiatives positively impacted their businesses for reasons including resolving labour shortages; improving staff loyalty and retaining high quality staff; enhancing business reputation and image; improving innovation leading to new products and services and also access to new markets. It also decreases related legal risks [source: Assessing Diversity: impact in business (PDF  - 491 KB), European Union Platform of Diversity Charters, European Commission, (October 2013)].

Monocultures can perpetuate unconscious bias and ‘groupthink’, to the detriment of the organisation and its talent pool.

More information is available in the Clearinghouse for Sport Women's Sport, Persons with Disability and Sport, and Indigenous Australians and Sport topics relating to specific barriers to and enablers of participation, as well as programs and case studies relevant to promoting improved inclusion of these groups.  

The under-representation of CaLD people in sport

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities can be key sources of players, fans, officials, coaches, administrators, and volunteers, and therefore are critical to the continued growth of sport's participation base. However, people from CaLD backgrounds have traditionally had low levels of involvement in sport and physical activity in Australia and as such, can face many barriers to inclusion.

Statistics show that people born in Australia are more likely to participate in sport and physical recreation than those born in other countries (67 percent and 59 percent respectively) [source: Migration, Australia 2013-14, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No. 3412.0, 2015, Canberra].

The participation rate of children between 5-14 years from families where both parents were born in Australia is 69 percent (75.7 percent for males and 62.6 percent for females), compared to 41.5 percent for both parents born in other countries (50 percent for males and 32.4 percent for females) [source: Survey of Children’s Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No. 4901.0,2012, Canberra]. 

Although not specific to country of birth the AusPlay survey similarly showed that in 2016 both adults and children from households who spoke a language other than English at home were less likely to participate in sport or physical activity than those who spoke only English. 

  • Adults - At least once per year (88.6% only English; 81.7% other language); At least once per week (81.0% only English; 72.9% other language); At least 3 times per week (61.5% English; 51.8% other language)
  • Children - At least once per year (72.5% only English; 58.5% other language)

Cultural differences, attitudes (interpersonal, institutional, and internalised), and a lack of awareness, knowledge, and accessibility are all issues that have contributed to the under representation of people from CaLD backgrounds in Australian sport [source: From barriers to bridges: CALD communities and sport (PDF  -1.1 MB), Skene P, Mosaic, the magazine of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, Issue 32, Summer 2012/13].

While the participation figures cited above are not as high as people born in Australia, they are still considerable, demonstrating the value of sport in many CaLD peoples’ lives.

In 2017 the Joint Standing Committee on Migration provided a detailed report to the Australian Government for consideration. Chapter 6 'Extracurricular activities' summarises various submissions and testimony that were received from multiple organisations and individuals about the importance of activities with a particular focus on sport and the arts. The majority of these submissions clearly saw sport as a key way for new migrants, particularly young people, to successfully connect with, and build ties to, their new communities. Several also identified key barriers for new migrants in regards to sport, particularly transportation, cost, family responsibilities, lack of knowledge of what was available and how sport functions in Australia, and a lack of cultural understanding from many sporting organisations. Several NSOs, including AFL, Netball and Tennis were highlighted as providing strong partnerships with settlement groups to work towards better results for migrants, however, Football Australia was highlighted as being less responsive - despite being a popular sport in many countries. Recommendation 10 suggests that the Department of Health establish a Sport and Active Recreation Program to increase active participation by migrants in sport and recreation activities. The Government response to the report supported this recommendation in principle and outlined existing programs and initiatives which are working to meet this requirement.  

The Benefits of Sport for CaLD people

Research by the Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) suggests that sport can and does play a vital role in contributing to positive settlement outcomes, promoting social inclusion, and supporting migrant and refugee integration into Australian society. 

The social interactions that can occur through participation in sporting teams and community clubs play an important part in shaping and reinforcing patterns of community identification and community belonging. It can also play an important role in the settlement of those newly arrived in Australia including well-documented physical, psychological, and social benefits to participants. 

  • Sport& SettlementSettlement Council of Australia Discussion Paper, (2012).
  • The Power of Sport:Building social bridges and breaking down cultural barriers [thesis], Paul Oliver, Curtin University, Faculty of Humanities, (September 2014).  This research investigated whether sport was effective at breaking down cultural barriers across sporting communities for Indigenous people and those from CaLD backgrounds, and if it could build bridges by contributing to wider social, physical and health issues, and thereby generate increased social capital in communities. It concludes that sport is not the magic ‘cure all’ that many assume, and can, in fact, reaffirm existing power structures that cause discrimination and inequality. However, participation in and through sport can help processes of belonging, trust and inclusion, and if managed correctly, sport can be an excellent medium for encouraging awareness and valuable public debate on wider social issues. 

Barriers to inclusion and participation

Research from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Sport Australia (formerly the Australian Sports Commission), and the Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) have all identified similar barriers to participation in sport by culturally diverse communities and individuals. Some of the key barriers include:

  • Lack of funding/financial resources for activities, equipment, uniforms, registration fees etc.
  • Transport issues (lack of accessible and safe transport to venues).
  • Lack of diverse role models and little cultural diversity in all aspects of the game (i.e. coaches, players, administrators, volunteers).
  • Issues surrounding cultural sensitivity and appropriateness (i.e. inflexibility of uniform requirements, timetabling of activities and competitions)
  • Family, religious, or cultural communities/activities may take priority over sport
  • Lack of understanding or familiarity with sporting clubs, structures, environment, and available opportunities to participate. This issue is exacerbated by limited communication/collaboration between sporting and settlement organisations. 
  • Lack of familiarity with the rules or physical skills required to play sports available where they settle, also limited opportunities to easily learn more about the sport and its rules.
  • Language barriers
  • Actual or potential negative attitudes towards culturally diverse members, i.e. the potential threat or experience of discrimination or racism, exclusiveness of the current structure of some sports. 
  • Additional barriers for women, both cultural and from sporting organisations, were recognised as well.

Research also suggested that a strong emphasis on winning and competition can be in conflict with attempts to promote inclusiveness and community engagement.

Engaging with CaLD Communities

As Australian society changes, sport at all levels needs to adapt and evolve, to reflect the communities they represent, and provide positive sporting experiences for new and existing participants. However, adapting to change can present many challenges for sport organisations.

Below are a number of fundamental practices that can assist in ensuring diversity within an organisation:

  • Engage communities early - When planning to include people from diverse backgrounds make sure you involve individuals from your targeted communities early in the process.
  • Take the time to build trust - Try to understand the situations that people from diverse backgrounds are in, particularly if it is early in the settlement process and engage accordingly. Identify who the community leaders are. Be clear about expectations and roles. Avoid tokenism, listen, and build trusting relationships. This can take some time.
  • Recognise diversity within communities - Differences exist between CaLD communities, and also within groups. Take time to understand individual communities and offer a range of targeted programs and activities.
  • Build your capacity -  Identify the champions of inclusion and provide training if necessary. Support club/association members and volunteers.
  • Avoid over-consultation – Don’t ‘re-invent the wheel’. Plan well, liaise, and seek advice from others who might also engage the community of interest. Consider partnerships with multicultural organisations and build engagement into existing programs and activities.
  • Address language issues - Consider the need to have written, electronic and verbal information translated and/or made available in plain English. Understand that English may not be a first language for many people so think about the best means of communication.
  • Learn about barriers to inclusion - Find out more on the barriers to inclusion for people from diverse backgrounds and specific communities, for example: playing on religious occasions, alcohol, uniforms, dress, etc.
  • Demonstrate respect - Understand at what stage people are in the settlement process and engage accordingly. Acknowledge community protocols, beliefs and practices. Avoid stereotypes. Be honest. 

[source: adapted from Queensland Government Community Engagement Guides (201?)]

The Australian Government has implemented a range of programs that promote CaLD participation and inclusion in sport.

The Strong and Resilient Communities program, which replaces the previous Strengthening Communities Activity from April 2018, will provide total funding of around AU$45 million over three and a quarter years to support the Government’s commitment to building strong and resilient communities. It includes three grant programs designed to support local community organisations in their efforts to overcome disadvantage and solve complex social problems: 

  1. Community Resilience grants – to support projects in communities to address potential or early signed of low social cohesion and/or racial, religious and cultural intolerance.
  2. Inclusive Communities grants – to improve the social and economic participation of vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals to enhance overall life-time wellbeing and community belonging.
  3. National Research grants – for research and advice projects that address emerging issues or provide innovative solutions to issues of national significance which impact upon community resilience and integration in Australia.

Harmony Day has been celebrated annually since 1999 and coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Although not specifically sport related, events provide an opportunity to advocate for community unity, cohesiveness, and cultural respect for Australians from all backgrounds. Many sports including netball, Australian rules football, and rugby league support Harmony Day and hold events and games around the country to promote themes of multicultural harmony and social cohesion. 

Racism. It Stops with Me. An Australian Human Rights Commission campaign that invites all Australians, both at the individual and the organisational level, to reflect on what they can do to counter racism, wherever it happens. The campaign has had many sports sign up as supporters and created community service announcements featuring well-known Australian sportspeople to promote its message.

Multicultural sport programs are also funded through a range of federal departments, including health, education, and immigration. State and territory governments also fund a range of inclusion programs for CaLD and other communities.  

Sport Australia (formerly the Australian Sports Commission)

Sport Australia plays a central leadership role in the development and operation of the Australian sports system, administering and funding sport programs and providing leadership, coordination, and support for the sport sector. 

Chair John Wylie has said:

Creating a fairer, more respectful, increasingly responsible and safer sporting environment for all Australians has been one of the Commission’s goals since it was formed in 1985. Reducing barriers to sports participation for all Australians, including those from CaLD backgrounds through programs, working with NSOs and funding sport at all levels is an important part of Australia’s cultural evolution. Wylie, 2013

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) conducted research in 2012 into the future of Australian sport. The report identified six sports 'mega trends' that may redefine the sport sector over the next 30 years and highlighted how different cultures have varied sporting preferences and recreation habits, and sporting organisations will be challenged with capturing the interest and involvement of these diverse cultures.

Sport Australia, in consultation with sport sector partners, also identified a need for research to better understand what is driving the Australian community’s participation in sport and other types of physical activities. The aim of the Market Segmentation for Sports Participation Studies (2013) was to identify and articulate the different motivations, attitudes, needs, and barriers that influence people’s decisions and behaviours in relation to sport and, in particular, participation in club-based sport.

The study found the segment of Sport Driven club members do a lot of physical activity, but keep their social activity within the club to a minimum. This segment is often younger, wealthier, and located in urban areas, with a high proportion from CaLD backgrounds. 

These types of research highlight how programs that target increasing participation and diversity experiences for those from CaLD backgrounds are recommended now and into the future as a matter of priority.

Play by the Rules

Play by the Rules is a national program, which provides online information and resources, education courses, and campaigns to help make sport safe, fair, and inclusive. Sport Australia, Australian Human Rights Commission, all state and territory departments of sport and recreation, all state and territory anti-discrimination and human rights agencies, the Office of the Children's Guardian (NSW), the Australian New Zealand Sports Law Association (ANZSLA) and the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW are partner agencies to Play by the Rules and help to promote the program, its resources, and training through their networks along with their own anti-discrimination and inclusion programs.

In 2016, Play by the Rules joined with multiple partners including Oliver & Thompson Consultancy, Victoria University, Monash University, Sport Australia, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Centre for Multicultural Youth to hold the inaugural Diversity and Inclusion in Sport Forum. This event brought together practitioners, academics, administrators and policy makers to collectively share ideas, strategies, best practice, and explore future approaches and solutions to help sport meet the many challenges and opportunities around inclusion and diversity. 18 invited speakers shared insightful presentations on a range of topics including: reconciliation action plans, homophobia, casual racism, disability and universal design, refugees and migrants, junior sport, violence against women, social inclusion frameworks, social network analysis, Indigenous player welfare, transgender, inclusion strategies, and program design. The 2017 forum was held in Melbourne on 6 October 2017. 

 Australian Capital Territory map

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

  • Multicultural Programs. ACT Community Services 
  • Active Canberra. The ACT is Australia's most physically active community, home to many successful elite athletes and sporting teams and an abundance of sport and recreation facilities that provide physical activity opportunities around almost every corner.

 New South Wales map

New South Wales (NSW)

  • Multicultural NSW, Promotes community harmony and social cohesion. The lead agency for implementing the policy and legislative framework to support multicultural principles in NSW.
  • The Office of Sport. The purpose is to assist the people of NSW to participate in sport and recreation to improve well-being. It recognises that there's more to sport than just playing it. Sport and recreation plays a vital role in binding communities together, and participation in physical activity creates a broad range of benefits for all members of the community.

 Northern Territory map

Northern Territory (NT)

  • Multicultural Affairs, Department of Chief Minister. The cultural and linguistic diversity of the Northern Territory is recognised, celebrated and supported through a number of services provided by the Department of the Chief Minister’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.
  • Department of Sport and RecreationTheir vision is "Territorians having a lifelong involvement in sport and active recreation". To achieve this vision, they facilitate the development of a vibrant, self-managed, accessible and sustainable sport and active recreation system across the Northern Territory.

 Queensland map

Queensland (QLD)

  • Multicultural Affairs Queensland. Queensland is home to more than 200 cultures, 220 languages, and 100 religious beliefs. Multiculturalism is one of Queensland's greatest strengths benefiting communities, workforce, businesses, and trade.
  • Sport and Recreation. The Office encourages Queensland residents to lead active, healthy lifestyles by participating in sport and recreation. This is achieved through a suite of initiatives including funding programs, community programs and workshops, active recreation centres and physical activity resources for parents and teachers aimed at getting young people physically active.

 South Australia map

South Australia (SA)

  • Multicultural SA. Is the agency responsible for advising the Government on all matters relating to multicultural and ethnic affairs in South Australia. Their vision is to achieve an open, inclusive, cohesive and equitable multicultural society, where cultural, linguistic, religious, and productive diversity is understood, valued, and supported.
  • The Office for Recreation and Sport. ORS is the lead agency for the Government's policy on sport and active recreation. It supports sport and recreation organisations through the development of policy, programs, and resources, the provision of funding, recreation and sport planning, infrastructure development, elite sport pathways, and the promotion of physical activity.

 Tasmania map

Tasmania (TAS)

  • Department of Premier and Cabinet - Migrant and multicultural communities. Tasmania's culturally and linguistically diverse communities have an important role to play in our unique multicultural society, which remains one of the State's greatest assets and strengths. The Community Development Division (CDD) in the Department of Premier and Cabinet is the main link between multicultural communities and the Tasmanian Government.
  • Sport and Recreation Tasmania. SRT is a Tasmanian Government agency with a vision to ensure that all Tasmanians are physically active through sport and recreation.

 Victoria map

Victoria (VIC)

  • Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC). Established in 1983, the VMC has provided independent advice to the Victorian Government to inform the development of legislative and policy frameworks, as well as the delivery of services to our culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse society.
  • Sport and Recreation Victoria. Sport and recreation plays an important part in the lives of individual Victorians and helps shape community identity. Sport and recreation opportunities provide settings for social interaction, sharing common interests and enhancing a sense of community
  • Victorian Health Promotion Foundation. VicHealth is a pioneer in health promotion – the process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health. It coordinates a number of program that assist the CaLD community including the Healthy Sporting Environments.

 Western Australia map

Western Australia (WA)

  • Office of Multicultural InterestsDepartment of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. Migrants from all walks of life are moving to this State in increasing numbers and looking to call it home. They are drawn here by our strong sense of family, our cultural diversity, our excellent schools and the variety of employment opportunities our strong economy provides. Western Australia is one of the country’s most culturally diverse States, with almost one-third of the population born overseas.
  • Sport & Recreation, The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. The Department is a key medium for creating new relationships among disparate social groups. People from CaLD backgrounds and Indigenous Australians can be vulnerable to social and structural disconnection. Research shows participation in sport provides increased opportunities for them to connect with the wider community.


  • All Together Now. Aims to prevent racism by promoting racial equality through education. We are Australia's only national charity dedicated to preventing all forms of racism in Australia. Since 2013 the organisation has been working with the Football Federation Australia (FFA) and Professional Footballers Association (PFA) to erase racism in football.  
  • Australian Multicultural Foundation. Promotes awareness of the diversity of cultures within Australia.
  • Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health. CEH provides specialist information, training and support on cultural diversity and wellbeing.
  • Centre for Multicultural Youth. State-wide community based organisation that aims to strengthen and build innovative partnerships between young people, support services and the community to enhance life opportunities for young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • Creating Chances. Provides internationally and nationally renowned best practice, evidence-based programs promoting positive youth development through sport.
  • Diversity Council Australia. An independent, not-for-profit workplace diversity advisor to business in Australia. It offers a unique knowledge bank of research, practice and expertise across diversity dimensions developed over more than 25 years of operation.
  • Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria. Advocates, lobbies, supports, and shares information on behalf of Victoria’s ethnic communities.
  • Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils. FECCA is the peak, national body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. FECCA's role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.
  • Multicultural Development Association. MDA is an independent, non-government, settlement organisation committed to achieving the best settlement outcomes for clients and to working actively to promote multiculturalism.
  • Red Elephant Projects. This organisation is a social enterprise with a vision of a culturally integrated and vibrant community - led by engaging sport, music, and arts initiatives.
  • Settlement Council of Australia. Sport and Settlement Discussion Paper (2012).
  • Scanlon Foundation. Since the establishment in 2001 the Foundation have pursued their mission to see Australia advance as a welcoming, prosperous, and cohesive nation. Social Cohesion research guides their investment as a "Social Entrepreneur" in grant giving focused on Social Cohesion.
  • Sport Matters. Access to sport and physical activity is seen as a fundamental human right. Sport is well recognised internationally as a low-cost and high-impact tool for development and a powerful agent for social change. It is a culturally accepted activity that unites families, communities, and nations and brings people together.
  • Sport Without Borders. This organisation is a not for profit organisation dedicated to providing support for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds who are involved or want to get involved in sport.

AFL iconAustralian Football



  • Australian Cricket welcomes people from all diverse cultures and backgrounds to this exciting game. Australia today is a diverse and fluid society. Cultural diversity is a fact of life in Australia with 43% of the national population either born overseas or having one parent born overseas.
  • Multicultural Leadership Program, Australian cricket has a vision to be Australia’s favourite sport. To achieve this vision, cricket must be a sport for all Australians: a sport that truly reflects Australia’s culturally diverse society by attracting new fans and players to the game.
  • Harmony in Cricket program, Cricket Victoria.
  • Well Played - Being a Welcoming Cricket Club, Cricket Australia.
  • Australia’s single largest investment in women’s sport and diversity programs. Cricket Australia media release, (17 October 2017). In a landmark agreement for Australian sport, Commonwealth Bank is extending its partnership with Cricket Australia beyond 30 years by investing more than $5 million per year over three years in a partnership focussed on women’s cricket, Indigenous players, players with a disability, and local clubs around the country.


  • Football United aims to build capacity of communities and improve the skills of people in diverse areas that includes high proportions of refugee, migrant and Indigenous Australian children, youth and families.
  • United Through Football ProgramFootball Federation Victoria.


  • Confident Girls, Confident Girls is the main grass roots campaign and the fundraising arm of Netball Australia and partner of the Australian Netball Diamonds team. Aims to provide opportunities for vulnerable girls through netball.
  • One Netball, A Netball Australia and Australia Post resource that provides all the information and inspiration you need to create a welcoming and inclusive netball community.
  • Multicultural Netball case studies Netball Victoria.

Rugby-League-smallRugby league

  • In League in Harmony. NRL program aims to empower youth to be agents of change for a more cohesive society.

surf-life-saving-smallSurf Life Saving

Case Studies

  • Fair Game - Sport and fitness are integral components of a healthy lifestyle and promote physical, mental and social wellbeing. Through the provision of recycled sporting equipment, fitness and education we aim to reduce the risk of lifestyle related disease, build social cohesion, and improve mental well-being.
  • Sport Case Studies - from Centre for Multicultural Youth Each of these Australian case studies focuses on a recent project – multicultural programs for basketball, skateboarding and gym membership, as well as an initiative exposing parents to various recreation facilities. Each study assesses the benefits and challenges of the program, and further steps to ensure the program had a future.

International Olympic Committee

Canada FlagCanada

  • Sport and Belonging, Community Foundations of Canada, (May 2016). Simply put, belonging is being part of a collective we. It’s about how much we believe we fit in a group or place – and how much that place or group welcomes or includes us. Our 2015 Vital Signs report explores how a greater sense of belonging has an extraordinary capacity to transform our lives and our communities. Yet our research found that 38% of Canadians don’t feel like they have a stake in their local community. So we asked: How can we strengthen our sense of belonging to each other and to our communities?
  • Sport for Life Society and the Aboriginal Sport Circle launch the Aboriginal Long-Term Participant Development Pathway, SIRC, (January 2016). A reference for working with Aboriginal participants in sport and recreation, presents a road map for developing sport and physical activity for Aboriginal participants. 

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  • Sport Integrity Framework: supporting diversity, Sport NZ, (29 June 2017). Every Kiwi has the right to participate in sport and recreation within a welcoming and inclusive environment, and to be treated with respect, empathy and positive regard irrespective of age, ability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs or socio-economic status.
  • New Zealand's major codes pull together to stamp out racism and, (31 June 2016). Racism and homophobia are in the firing line of six of New Zealand's largest sporting organisations. New Zealand Rugby, New Zealand Football, New Zealand Cricket, New Zealand Rugby League, Netball New Zealand and Hockey New Zealand released a statement committing to improve diversity and inclusion within their individual organisations. They agreed to establish a programme of areas of focus by the end of the year.

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  • Equality & Diversity, Sport England, (accessed 8 November 2017). Tackling inequality is at the heart of our Towards an Active Nation strategy for 2017-21. But it’s not just about participants and volunteers on the ground. Every part of the sporting landscape needs to change. And that includes us, our partners, our staff and those we invest in. Includes resources and information relating to equality, sexuality and gender identity, disability, and ethnicity. 
  • The social value of sport. Participation in sport in England generates social value of over £44 billion according to research by Sheffield Hallam University. The study, which is the first of its kind, looks at the Social Return on Investment (SROI) of sport and the impact it has on improving health and educational attainment, reducing crime and enhancing participants' life satisfaction. Read the Summary Report (PDF  - 994 KB), Sport Industry Research Center, Sheffield Hallam University, (April 2016). 

Northern Ireland 

  • Social Exclusion and Sport in Northern Ireland, Ulster University, (December 2015). This three year study (2012 – 2015), charted attitudes to exclusion/inclusion in the context of sport and sports in NI. It employed both qualitative and quantitative methodology to determine the nature, form and intensity of these attitudes.

Specifically the objectives of the SESNI project were to:

  • understand the extent, distribution and causes of social exclusion in NI society, particularly in the sporting context;
  • chart current practice in relation to exclusion/inclusion in sport in NI;
  • assist in the understanding of public perceptions and attitudes in respect of cohesion, sharing and integration in NI;
  • contribute  to the development of the statistical infrastructure on social exclusion in NI and provide specific statistical indicators on sport and social exclusion;
  • facilitate and inform wider public debate on the issues of sport and social exclusion in NI; and
  • identify key issues to shape future policy development.

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.

ReadingResearch & Reading

  • A systematic reviews of the literature on black and minority ethnic communities in sport and physical recreation, (PDF  - 2.7 MB), Long J, Hylton K, Spracklen K, Ratna A and Bailey S, Sport England (2009). This review, conducted for Sporting Equals and the sports councils by the Carnegie Research Institute, examines participation in sport and physical recreation by black and minority ethnic (BME) communities as segments of the population identified in the government’s equality legislation (as reflected in the remit of the Equality and Human Rights Commission). It is a review of a decade’s research literature. In conducting the review this report is not just concerned with what is, but how opportunities might be extended and improved. The challenge, then, is to establish what works for whom in what circumstances and how programmes work. The goal is to inform policy and practice.
  • An Exploration Of Social Inclusion In Australian Community Sport: The Case Of Muslim Women,  (PDF  - 441 KB), Hazel Maxwell, University of Technology, Sydney, (October 2012). This thesis examines processes of social inclusion in Australian community sport settings. In particular, it explores the social inclusion dimensions as related to one community group, Muslim women. The research considers how organisational policies, practices, programs and projects can facilitate or inhibit the social inclusion of Muslim women. Various elements of organisational inclusion were explored through a case study approach which involved three different community sport settings. The facilitation of social inclusion was examined through document analysis, individual and focus group interviews.
  • Challenging Racism - The Anti-Racism Research Project. A project based at the University of Western Sydney, the Challenging Racism Project team have compiled a list of useful, practical anti-racism initiatives and strategies - that local governments and individuals can access and use to address cultural prejudices in their own backyards.
  • Choosing to act: How Victorians can prevent race-based discrimination and support cultural diversity, (PDF  - 881 KB), Russell Z, Pennay D, Websterr K and Paradies Y, VicHealth (2013). VicHealth, the Social Research Centre and The University of Melbourne conducted a survey to identify Victorians’ recognition of incidents of race-based discrimination and their readiness to take action when it occurred.
  • Combating Racism in Sport panel discussionA transcript from a seminar by Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, (2011).
  • Come out to play - 'The Sports experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in Victoria', (PDF   - 810 KB) Symons, C et. al., Victoria University, (May 2010). Come out to play is a comprehensive survey of the LGBT sport experience in Australia and provides rich insight through closed and open ended responses into the sporting lives, passions, rewards and challenges of these sports participants, supporters, volunteers and workers.
  • Culture of competition discourages some kids from sport, Victoria University media release, (6 May 2019). A study of Aussie sports clubs finds that a culture of competitiveness is preventing kids from diverse backgrounds and abilities from participating in junior sport. The research also showed that many clubs were uncertain about the concept and how it related to them, or how to actively promote diversity and social inclusion. Some other key findings included: Diversity was often viewed as diverting resources from a club’s core business, which revolved around organising teams and improving playing skills; Clubs that actively promoted diversity were generally regarded by coaches and parents from outside clubs as not serious clubs, and suitable only for children who were ‘no good’ at sport; Men at clubs that focused on competition above participation were, on average, more likely to be homophobic, endorse stricter gender roles, enforce violence as a natural masculine trait, and were less likely to hold pro-disability attitudes.
  • Cultural diversity in community sport: An ethnographic inquiry of Somali Australians’ experiences, Ramon Spaaij, Sport Management Review, Volume 16, Issue 1, (February 2013). Sport organisations aim to grow the participation of culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including newly arrived people from refugee backgrounds. Drawing on multi-sited ethnographic research conducted by the author at community sport organisations in the multicultural city of Melbourne, this paper examines the key factors that affect the sport participation experiences of Somali Australians.
  • Football and Inclusivity (Soccer and Society), Daniel Parnell and David Richardson, The Community Football Hub, (May 2014). This volume explores the power of football and its role in engaging and including its ‘populous’ in positive social and behavioural activity. Specifically, this volume highlights a range of approaches that have been adopted and actioned by researchers, practitioners and organisations in order to stimulate, create and influence social good through football.
  • From barriers to bridges: CALD communities and sport, Skene P, Mosaic, the magazine of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, issue 32, (summer 2012/13). The 2011 ABS Census of population confirmed the increase of Australia’s multicultural diversity through skilled and humanitarian immigration programs. For the sport industry, this social and demographic transformation has created challenges and opportunities in engaging participants and fans from a complex range of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. This article reviews a number of programs currently operating across Australia.
  • Migrants & participation in sport & physical activity, (PDF  - 308 KB), Australian Bureau of Statistics, (2006).  Ethnic minorities, people born in non Englishspeaking countries, older people, women and people with low levels of education have been identified as more likely to have lower participation rates (ABS cat 4159.0; Crespo et al., 1996). This article will provide a brief overview of the participation of migrants in sport and physical activities. The information presented is sourced from the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) and the 2003 Childrenís Participation in Selected Culture and Leisure Activities Survey. This paper will also present recent analysis of this data reported to the 2005 National Physical Activity conference and the 2005 Sports Management Association of Australia and New Zealand annual conference.
  • Participation-performance tension and gender affect recreational sports clubs’ engagement with children and young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities, Spaaij R, Lusher D, Jeanes R, Farquharson K, Gorman S, Magee J, PLoS ONE, 14(4): e0214537, (2019). This mixed methods study investigated how diversity is understood, experienced and managed in junior sport. The study combined in-depth interviews (n = 101), surveys (n = 450) and observations over a three-year period. The results revealed that a focus on performance and competitiveness negatively affected junior sports clubs’ commitment to diversity and inclusive participation. Gender and a range of attitudes about diversity were also strongly related. On average, we found that those who identified as men were more likely to support a pro-performance stance, be homophobic, endorse stricter gender roles, and endorse violence as a natural masculine trait. In addition, those who identified as men were less likely to hold pro-disability attitudes. These findings suggest that the participation-performance tension and gender affect to what extent, and how, sports clubs engage children and young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities.
  • Pasifika diaspora and the changing face of Australian Rugby League (PDF  - 591 KB), Lakisa, D., Adair, D., & Taylor, T. (2014), The Contemporary Pacific, 26 (2). The Pasifika diaspora in Australia is making an indelible imprint on the sport of rugby league.1 In part, this stems from the growing number of players of Polynesian (including Māori) and Melanesian heritage who now take part in the National Rugby League (nrl). The heightened involvement of players of Pasifika origin has created many opportunities but has also presented challenges. This multifaceted, ethno-culturally diverse group of footballers of Pasifika heritage face a range of complex issues that marks them as distinctive in Australian sport. Indeed, researchers can glean much about the diverse and complex Pasifika diaspora in Australia by exploring their involvement in the rugby league. As this article shows, NRL players of Pasifika heritage typically experience complex patterns of migration and geographic mobility as well as profound cultural pressures and stereotyping (both within and outside their communities). Pasifika migrants additionally face problems associated with eligibility for international teams and the underlying politics of allegiance to a country beyond their birthplace.
  • Playing Together: new citizens, sport & belonging, Institute for Canadian Citizenship,(July 2014). This report tells the story of sports as an effective means to help new Canadians feel at home. Sports are familiar, safe spaces to connect to new people. By playing together, we build connections, community and, ultimately, the country.
  • ‘Sistas’ and aunties: sport, physical activity and indigenous Australian women, Stronach, M., Maxwell, H. & Taylor, T. Annals of Leisure Research, 16(1), (2016). Indigenous women have alarmingly low rates of participation in organized sport and physical activity (PA) in contemporary Australian society. To gain a better contextual and cultural understanding of the issues involved, we discussed the life experiences and the place of sport and PA with 22 Indigenous women. The research was guided by a culturally appropriate interpretative qualitative methodology. A complex amalgamation of cultural beliefs and traditions, history, gendered factors, and geography are presented in the women’s stories. Sport and PA were highly regarded, providing the women with opportunities to maintain strong communities, preserve culture, and develop distinct identities as ‘enablers’. The women called for culturally safe spaces in which to engage in PA and noted the need for Indigenous females to act as role models. The study provides preliminary understandings that can be used to facilitate greater sport and PA inclusion, and implications for future research are presented.
  • Social inclusion in community sport: A Case study of Muslim women in Australia, (PDF  - 392 KB), Maxwell, H. Foley, C., Taylor, T., & Burton, C, Journal of Sport Management, 27, (2013). This paper considers how organizational practices facilitate and inhibit the social inclusion of Muslim women in a community sport setting. A case study of social inclusion practices in an Australian community sport organization (CSO) was built through interviews, focus groups, secondary data, and documentary evidence. Drawing on the work of Bailey (2005, 2008) the analysis employed a social inclusion framework comprised of spatial, functional, relational, and power dimensions. Findings indicated that there are a range of practices which facilitate social inclusion. Paradoxically, some of the practices that contributed to social inclusion at the club for Muslim women resulted in social exclusion for non-Muslim women. Examining each practice from multiple perspectives provided by the social inclusion framework allowed a thorough analysis to be made of the significance of each practice to the social inclusion of Muslim women at the club. Implications for social inclusion research and sport management practice are discussed.
  • Sports and Refugee Settlement, Settlement Council of Australia, discussion paper, (PDF  - 912 KB), (August 2012). Each community has its own needs in relation to sports, and there are also a wide range of variations between different states and towns (let alone sporting codes!). This impacts on what works in sporting programs, and what is needed to support full inclusion in sports.The benefits of participation in sports are clear.
  • Sport And Recreation And Community Building (PDF  - 888 KB) A Literature Review for the NSW Department of the Arts, Sport and Recreation, Andrew Larkin (June 2008). The paper examines the literature on a range of related topic areas:
  • The role of sport in supporting community building, particularly in strengthening residents’ commitment to their neighbourhood or local area;
  • The role of sport in developing social capital – the building of groups of mutual interest, acting together to achieve their objectives, including through sports volunteering;
  • The role of sport in promoting pro-social and diminishing anti-social behaviour; and
  • Strategies for encouraging groups with low levels of sport participation to become involved, with perceived benefits to promoting social harmony.
  • The development of female Muslim life-savers, Maxwell, H. Foley, C., Taylor, T., & Burton, C, Sport Management Review, 18(1) (2015). This teaching case illustrates the use of community development strategies to increase and enhance community sport participation of a targeted minority group. Royal Life Saving Society of Australia is presented here as an example of an organisation that embraced cultural change and developed a strategic approach to inclusive provision for individuals from marginalised population groups. The case is based on a community development framework that includes multiple facets: a shared concern about a social problem requiring action; encouraging the active participation of a marginalised group; forming public sector partnerships to pool resources and build political support; adopting collaborative principles of organising; collectively developing and implementing action plans; and re-conceptualising traditional ideas around accountability. The case facilitates the examination of the theoretical and practical considerations of adopting a community development approach in sport management.
  • What's the Score?, Australian Human Rights Commission, (2007). A survey of cultural diversity and racism in Australian Sport.

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