"I didn't even know that there was such a thing as Aboriginal games" : a figurational analysis of how Indigenous students experience physical education and school sport

  • Leslie John Williams

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The purpose of this research was to find out how Indigenous students from Year 7 to 10, at three government funded schools in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), experience physical education (PE) and school sport. The study also sought to gain insights into how this meaning came to be, and the key processes and events over time that were most influential. The research was undertaken in the context of a national curriculum for Health and Physical Education (HPE) being recently introduced into the ACT. Justification for the research is that no study of this kind has ever been undertaken in ACT schools. Therefore, there is no empirical data about how Indigenous students experience PE and school sport. It is argued that this gap in the research facilitates fantasies, assumptions and stereotypes about Indigenous students. There were three research questions in this study which were: How do Indigenous students experience PE and school sport at the three high schools selected for the research? How did these Indigenous students’ experiences of PE and school sport come to be? What events and long-term processes have influenced Indigenous students’ experiences of PE and school sport at the three high schools? Figurational sociology incorporating racialization theory, was used as the theoretical framework for this study due to its usefulness in interpreting social problems processually. In figurational sociology the notion of process is central and is the study of long-term practices and occurrences for understanding social phenomena. Along with process, the idea of the figuration or configuration is also fundamental to figurational sociology and is used to represent relationships of individuals, systems and processes. An accompanying methodology sympathetic to figurational sociology was adopted that involved reconstructing three inter-related levels of the figurations studied: the macro, micro and sociogenesis levels. The macro level depicts the contemporary social structure or ‘rules’ of the figurations; the micro level the individuals that exist within those social structures, and the sociogenesis being how the respective figurations came to be. Websites, photos, a school plan and current documents were used as data sources at the macro level as they were deemed as being most suitable for answering the first research question. Interviews and archive documents were used for the micro and sociogenesis levels respectively. This research found that a single figuration for PE and school sport existed that interconnected the PE and school sport figurations at each of the three schools. Within this single figuration, Eurocentric PE and school sport was almost exclusively programmed. Indigenous students were found to experience PE and school sport within what was almost entirely a European frame of reference that lacked acknowledgment of their own culture. Another main finding, consistent with the literature about adult Indigenous sport, was that the students were stacked towards football codes of rugby, and Australian Rules. Stacking in the context of this study means that Indigenous students were encouraged by HPE teachers and non-Indigenous students to play only certain sports based upon racialized perceptions. The main long-term processes found to have influenced the single figuration were ‘invented tradition’, HPE teacher and student predispositions towards certain values and beliefs, a form of civilizing process and racialization.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorKathryn Moyle (Supervisor), Simon Leonard (Supervisor), Allan Edwards (Supervisor) & Jeanine Leane (Supervisor)

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