House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Committee; Report

10:25 am

Photo of Sharman StoneSharman Stone (Murray, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I too would like to speak about this particular report, Sport—more than just a game: contribution of sport to Indigenous wellbeing and mentoring. We are a nation of sports lovers, and many Australians venerate our sporting heroes. Indigenous Australians likewise love their sport and have very good reasons to be proud of their champion footballers, athletes and great tennis players like Evonne Goolagong Cawley. We have some early examples of Indigenous Australians going and challenging the UK in cricket. They were pioneering Indigenous cricket teams.

The minister asked the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs to look at the contribution of sport to Indigenous wellbeing and mentoring given there are a number of sporting codes which engage with Indigenous individuals and communities and government funds are directed to many of these programs and projects. These projects often relate to physical fitness, team development or they support broader educational objectives through appealing to students interested in sport. An obvious example of this is the magnificent Clontarf program.

As the chair of our committee has just mentioned, we found a big gender divide when it comes to sports engagement and funding in Indigenous communities. Girls are much less likely to be involved with the various football codes and cricket, although some hardy individuals do break through the barriers, but, of course, the football codes are most likely to be funded to go out and support Indigenous communities.

As well, the highly successful Clontarf program, which began in Western Australia and is now found in most states, focuses on greater educational outcomes through boys' participation in football and long-term stable mentoring. There is no doubt in my mind that such an excellent program would prove to be just as successful if girls were also targeted, perhaps using netball or some other sport of wider appeal to girls. It seems such a shame that the Clontarf program is so long standing and has been so successful but girls do not have the opportunity to also be helped through this program.

We found short-termism, one-off trials and pilots littered the funding environment when it came to sport or physical fitness and Indigenous communities. Even when a sports related program had proved to be worthwhile and, in some cases, had outstanding results, this did not guarantee ongoing funding or any long-term commitment to the program or project.

This is typical of Indigenous program funding, of course, and, unfortunately, of many other levels of state and federal funding, but it has led to understandable cynicism and disappointment as remote or small communities see new faces come and go in an endless stream leaving little to show for their efforts. The committee recommended that funding of Indigenous sports program should preferably be for at least a three-year cycle.

While women and girls' sport or fitness activities were frequently less supported than programs for men and boys, we also found little evidence of effort being made to engage older Indigenous Australians in sport or physical activity. We know that older Australians, some well into their 90s, enjoy bowls. Many urban Australians have access to lawn bowling or indoor bowling facilities very close by.

We know that there is an obesity concern in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and populations with older Australians. However, it seems that the sports support effort when it comes to Indigenous communities is focused very much on very young people or young adults. We were not given much evidence at all about any effort to engage older urban or rural Indigenous Australians, and I think we should make that effort.

As well, we were concerned that the support of sport in Indigenous communities goes beyond the elite level—the elite focus—and also looks at the umpiring, coaching, training and all of the other positions of responsibility and skill that are involved in putting a sporting activity together or sustaining a team. I am very proud, as the member for Murray, to say that one of the only Indigenous AFL umpires—Glen Jones, who also umpired a grand final—comes from Shepparton.

We are concerned that all of the evaluation of these programs and particularly in relation to the targets of Closing the Gap is better managed. We found that sports in Indigenous communities are a very positive endeavour. We had extraordinary cooperation and participation in this inquiry. I commend the report to the House and also, as with our Chair, congratulate the committee, with the support of the secretariat, for outstanding work.


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