Aboriginal football and the Australian game
This paper introduces an Australian Research Council research project currently being undertaken at the remote Aboriginal community of Papunya in the Northern Territory. The project, led by Barry Judd and Tim Butcher from RMIT University, explores the role organised Australian Football plays in community wellbeing in a remote community. While mainstream narratives of sport view wellbeing as a natural outcome of participation in organised competition, this project critically interrogates the positive outcomes assumed in this relationship. The authors argue that the promise of Australian Football to transform the lives of remote community residents in positive ways is largely false and that participation in mainstream competition in Alice Springs may be socially and economically detrimental to the wellbeing of the people of Papunya. The paper questions the place that Aboriginal people occupy in Australian Football and suggests that cultural identity has only a tenuous place in the sport. It explores this theme in the context of the Northern Territory Emergency Response, or ‘Intervention’, which has positioned remote community residents as unwanted outsiders in Alice Springs and other ‘white’ spaces in the Northern Territory. It further argues that these issues are of national significance and that the treatment of Australian Football League star Adam Goodes underlines sport’s limitations in delivering wellbeing to Aboriginal peoples and their communities.
Australian Aboriginal Studies
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Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified