Beyond Equality: The place of Aboriginal culture in the Australian Game of Football

No Thumbnail Available
File version
Author(s)
Judd, Barry
Butcher, Tim
Griffith University Author(s)
Primary Supervisor
Other Supervisors
Editor(s)
Date
2016
Size
File type(s)
Location
License
Abstract

This paper provides an overview of Aboriginal interventions in the sport of Australian (Rules) Football in the period since the formation of the Australian Football League (AFL) in 1990. Recalling several pivotal events that have defined and redefined the relationship between Aboriginal people and the Australian game of football, this paper finds that the struggle to end on-field racial vilification in the 1990s attracted widespread support from the overwhelmingly non-Aboriginal public because these actions were consistent with the political principle of equality. The key actions of Nicky Winmar and Michael Long gained general appeal because they demanded that Aboriginal people be treated as though they were Anglo-Australians. In this regard, the 1990s fight against on-field racism in the AFL was a continuation of the Aboriginal struggle for rights associated with Australian citizenship. As the 1967 Commonwealth referenda on Aborigines demonstrated, most Anglo-Australians understood and supported the political principle of equality even though the promise of citizenship in substantive improvements to social and economic outcomes almost 50 years later remains largely unfulfilled.

Nevertheless, in the recently concluded 2015 AFL season, Adam Goodes, the most highly decorated Aboriginal man to play the sport at the highest level, was effectively booed into retirement. Goodes became a controversial and largely disliked figure in the sport when he used the public honour of being 2014 Australian of the Year to highlight the disadvantage and historical wrongs that continue to adversely impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their communities. This paper argues that Goodes effectively sought to shift the paradigm of Aboriginal struggle beyond the sympathetic notions of racism and equal treatment to issues of historical fact that imply First Nations rights associated with cultural practice. Goodes’ career initiates a new discussion about the place that Aboriginal cultures, traditions and understandings might have in the sport today. His decision to perform an Aboriginal war dance demonstrates that the new paradigm we propose is primarily about the political principle of difference, not equality.

Journal Title

Australian Aboriginal Studies

Conference Title
Book Title
Edition
Volume

1

Issue
Thesis Type
Degree Program
School
DOI
Patent number
Funder(s)
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
Rights Statement

Self-archiving of the author-manuscript version is not yet supported by this journal. Please refer to the journal link for access to the definitive, published version or contact the author[s] for more information.

Item Access Status
Note
Access the data
Related item(s)
Subject

Organisation and Management Theory

Studies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Society

Social Change

Other Studies in Human Society

Archaeology

Historical Studies

Persistent link to this record
Citation
Collections