Australia has a close affiliation with the Indigenous population, for example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, ever since the inception of Australia as a country in 1788. Indigenous people have been in Australia well before 1788, and with multiculturalism, so should Indigenous cultures be better acknowledged and respected in sport. So the question remains as to why does discrimination and elitist-type behavior remain to an extent with Indigenous peoples in sport and in general?
Indigenous people, in general, pride themselves on their physical prowess and being fit and strong. Sport and recreation has been a fantastic channel for the Indigenous populations to better themselves with health and fitness, social cohesion and discipline and compliance. However, like people in general, Indigenous people are moving towards a sedentary lifestyle, “Between 2001 and 2005, there was an increase from 37% to 47% of Indigenous people having sedentary behavior” (Australian Government (2008)).
The Australian Federal Government is aiming to work closer with National Sporting Organizations on their existing Indigenous sport initiatives and ensure that the Government has the most effective funding structure in place (Australian Government (2008)). AFL is one particular sport that has accepted potential and rising Indigenous sports people, providing a clear pathway into the elite ranks. There might be the establishment of a team in the Northern Territory to play in either the South Australian or Western Australian National Football League (AFL). Indigenous players are dispersed throughout Australian sport, like Rugby League and Rugby Union (Jonathon Thurston, Kurtley Beale, South Sydney Rabbitohs and NRL Indigenous All Stars team) and Athletics (Cathy Freeman, Patrick Johnson and Kyle Van der Kype), but it would be good to see more Indigenous athletes in elite ranks. There have also been Indigenous Sport Development Officers working with National sporting organizations, the Traditional Indigenous Games, Cross Cultural Awareness program and the NiTV Indigenous channel on cable television network Foxtel which shows a lot of Indigenous sport.
Disabilities can be a number of things, big and small, from a severe stutter to missing a leg or arm or being in a wheelchair. Yet some of these people with a disability learn to feel better and function in society through sport and recreation. Then again, there are those who do not. The same benefits of sport and recreation as mentioned under ‘Indigenous’ apply here. After a long wait, there is something like the Australian Paralympic Games to inspire and motivate disabled people and athletes to not only participate but also reach for the elite ranks – “The Federal Government will consult with State and Territory Governments, various sporting groups for the disabled, including the Australian Paralympic Committee and National Sporting Organizations, to ensure there are appropriate opportunities and access to sporting pathways to support athletes with a disability” (Australian Government (2008)). In stating this, recommendations in previous reports need to be analyzed and implemented to some extent or fully. An example is more disabled-specific sporting clubs needing to surface, like also women’s sporting clubs and Indigenous sporting clubs, the Disability Sports Assistance program and the NSW Department of Sport and Recreation’s list 22 State Disability Sporting Organizations on its web-site.
Money and Economics in Sport
Australia in general, as with other countries around the world, has not seen a lot of money come into their sports. This has been positive and negative. Money can be seen by some as something that may corrupt an athlete or member of a team. Perhaps this is why Australia has not allowed the large amounts of money to enter its sports. However, other less popular and non-mainstream sports could do with some extra money, as stated before with some athletes and teams having to look after themselves financially. It is a matter of time before these lesser sports begin to receive more funding and improve and develop. Having more business people on these National and State organizations of these less popular sports could help in this case, but activities should still be kept in check, and sports not allowed to be sold out to these businessmen. Some good examples of this are the salary cap rorts with the Melbourne Storm in the NRL and the advent of Super League in Australia in Australia and Great Britain.
On a positive note, the Australian Government provides funding for local sport as well, not just elite sport. The AusAID ‘Development of Sport’ Australian Outreach Sports Program (ASOP) helps people in partner Pacific Island countries of Fuji, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Caribbean with “non-communicable diseases like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer” (Australian Government, AusAID (4 April 2012)). ASOP does this by helping promote physical activity and healthy diets, “supporting people with a disability, providing social cohesion and teaching youth about compliance, discipline and perseverance” Australian Government, AusAID (4 April 2012). The ASOP Grants Program “provides funding assistance to targeted, small-medium size community development projects to increase participation in sport and physical activity and address broader community issues.”Australian Government, AusAID (4 April 2012) The Australian Sports Foundation, under the Australian Government, operates much the same way for the Australian Community in sport by raising funds (Australian.gov.au – Sports). The work of AusAID and Australian Sports Foundation ties in with the aim of the Australian Government document, ‘The Future of Sport in Australia’, to “sustain the funding base for sport” (Australian Government, Department of Health and Ageing (2009)).
Economically, the sport and recreation industry earns the national economy an estimated $8.82 billion (2004-2005), and this figure makes it a major contributor to the Australian economy, including tourism, aid and trade (Australian Government (2008)). Sport earns the NSW economy $1.6 billion annually (2003-2004), and with linkage to other sectors, the estimate is $4 billion (State Chamber of Commerce (NSW) (July 2003)). There were 2000 businesses in this total and 27,000 employees. Mainstream sports only earn so much from the Australian and State and Territory Governments, but the rest is gained from businesses and corporations, the media and community. Less popular sports like Volleyball and Table Tennis can do with more funding in general. More competitions and events like the FIFA Football World Cup possibly in Sydney in 2018, the Olympics and Paralympics and Masters Games would provide a great boost to the Australian economy. Professional sports are not the only sports that earn money for the Australian economy, it is also ‘amateur sports’. Examples of amateur sports are Dance, Singing and Talent competitions, Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts and Motor-racing. These amateur participants and supporters spend thousands on merchandise, pay fees, support sponsors’ businesses and attend social functions (State Chamber of Commerce (NSW) (July 2003))
Media Exposure and Coverage in Sport
Use of the media in sport has changed the way Australians and the international community perceives and responds to sport, in a good way and bad way. Since the visual stimulus is very strong in people, TV in particular has been very powerful in showcasing various sporting competitions and events. Australians love their sport in general and now there are designated sport channels to cater for this like Fox Sports, Eurosport News, ESPN, Fuel TV, Main Event and Horse-racing. Many sports have become successful because of TV, Internet and other media coverage, such as the NRL, the Super 15 (Rugby Union), A-League, Cricket, Golf and Netball. More money is being offered by media companies for sport coverage of certain sports, especially the more popular mainstream sports. According to CSIRO, the “types of sports we play and watch are changing” (CSIRO (15 March, 2012) ). This has been a problem for the other less popular sports that could do with, and fight for more media coverage and sponsorship, such as Hockey, Martial Arts, Volleyball and Table Tennis. Perhaps more alternative or mainstream programs and channels on free-to-air and cable television can be assigned or given to these non-mainstream sports, including local sport, and it is a long-time overdue.
Additionally, the media has made stars of some sports’ athletes and team members, for example, Darren Lockyer of the Brisbane Broncos, Queensland Maroons and Australian Kangaroos, Shane Heal of the Sydney Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs in the NBA in the USA and Wayne Gretzy of Ice Hockey in America. There are, of course, many successful and star athletes out there the media has given exposure to. It has shown their skills and abilities and performances and the relevant sporting organizations, media, sponsors and general public have picked up on this with experiencing an athlete’s highs and lows. Some athletes and staff have gone on to earn big money and reach the heights of fame and fortune.
However, there is a down-side to media as well which needs to be closely checked and managed. Some athletes have not handled the fame and fortune of media exposure in sport, having fallen into substance abuse, money loss and gambling, relationship problems, poor form under pressure or leaving or changing sports or teams. Examples of this are LA Lakers and Dream Team American Basketballer Kobe Bryant with an alleged assault on a female, drunken behavior from George Best from Manchester United in the English Premier League and slobbish antics from Julian O’Neil of the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL Rugby League competition in Australia. Additionally, the pressure to perform, and if an athlete is actually performing at his or her best, is a big issue. Competitions and matches have been won and lost based on pressure to perform, internally from the athlete themselves and externally from coaching staff and media, sponsors, fans and spectators and an athlete’s inner circle of family and friends. An example of this was Italy’s Roberto Baggio missing the final penalty kick against Brazil in final of the 1994 FIFA Football World Cup.