‘ … if my family didn’t play football … we would literally have pretty much nothing’: how high school Aboriginal students continue culture through rugby league and Australian football

John Williams, Shane Pill, John R. Evans, Michael Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Contemporarily Australian Indigenous peoples are portrayed by white Australians according to deficit understandings. As well as being inaccurate, this depiction, as part of a long-term civilising process, is an expression of ‘fantasy-laden thinking’ [Mennell, S., & Goudsblom, J. (1998). Introduction. In S. Mennell & J. Goudsblom (Eds.), Norbert Elias on civilization, power, and knowledge: Selected writings (pp. 1–45). The University of Chicago Press]. Such reasoning, apart from being false, serves to create and reinforce stereotypes, while promoting the ‘superiority’ of the Western world. Sport was used by the British as part of the process of civilisation to globally promote such reality inadequate accounts of Indigenous peoples, through its use as a ‘civilizing’ instrument. Sport, including rugby league and Australian football (AFL), was used in Australia to teach British values and gentlemanly behaviour to show Aboriginal people their ‘place’. This study explains how both sports have meaning for high school students, as an unintended outcome of their introduction to Australia’s Indigenous peoples. Figurational sociology, through its concern with long-term processes, is used to examine the importance of AFL and rugby league to 12 Year 7–10 (age 12–16 approximately) participants. Data were collected using six semi-structured interviews and were interpretively analysed. Instead of experiencing a sense of being ‘civilized’ or enlightened through their involvement in AFL and rugby league, participants instead spoke about both sports offering: (i) personal meaning through enjoyment and identity creation; (ii) family and community connections; (iii) support networks from family members, peers and others; and (iv) opportunities to continue their culture. It would seem then that the introduction of rugby league and AFL to Australia’s Indigenous peoples has resulted in the adaption of both sports for cultural and other reasons. It is possible that similar reconstruction of meaning is experienced by Indigenous groups beyond Australia who were similarly colonised by Western nations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalSport, Education and Society
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Sep 2020

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of '‘ … if my family didn’t play football … we would literally have pretty much nothing’: how high school Aboriginal students continue culture through rugby league and Australian football'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this