House debates

Monday, 24 June 2013


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Committee; Report

10:20 am

Photo of Janelle SaffinJanelle Saffin (Page, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs I present the committee's report entitled Sport: More than just a game together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence received by the committee.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

I am going to saying the thank yous at the beginning of my report so that I do not run out time to do that. I would like to start by thanking the honourable member for Blair, Shayne Neumann, who is in the chamber with us. He was chair of the committee when this report came into being. I want to thank him for being able to take carriage of such a wonderful timely and much needed report that also grew out of a previous report the committee had done under his chairmanship. That was the Doing time report. I acknowledge that I was in the lovely position of receiving this report and being able to finalise and deliver it.

I also want to thank Dr Sharman Stone, the deputy of the committee, for her wonderful work and for the bipartisanship that she and all members of the committee have shown during the time that I have been on the committee. That is why the committees are so important to the parliamentary process. I also want to thank Anna Dacre, the Secretary, and the secretariat staff including Susan Cardell, inquiry secretary, Rebecca Gordon, inquiry secretary, and Katrina Gillogly for the great support that they have given to me as chair of the committee and to the wonderful work of the committee.

Overall, evidence from the inquiry supported the theory that sport has a positive impact on Indigenous wellbeing and mentoring and can contribute positively to achieving the Closing the Gap targets in areas such as health, education and employment. The role of Indigenous mentors was regarded as a critical element to the success of sport programs. The committee found that sport is much more than just a game. It can be a pathway to stronger communities and better opportunities. Sport can be the hook or vehicle to provide opportunities for communities to come together to encourage Indigenous participation in education and employment and to demonstrate positive behaviours through local and elite sporting role models.

The committee makes 11 recommendations in this report. To ensure the contribution of sport will continue to improve Indigenous wellbeing and mentoring, the committee has recommended that the Commonwealth government develop an overarching framework of service delivery and evaluation for Commonwealth agencies that funds sports programs. Outcomes should be aligned with Closing the Gap targets in health, education and employment. The committee was impressed with many of the sports programs currently operating throughout Australia, including the Commonwealth government funded Learn Earn Legend! program that focuses on school retention and school to work transitions and is being facilitated by numerous sporting bodies. The committee recommended that the Commonwealth government extend the funding of the Learn Earn Legend! program. It really is a great program.

The success of sports programs can be reliant upon strong partnerships fostered between government, sporting bodies, the corporate sector and communities. The committee recommends that the Commonwealth government provide base funding and coordinated assistance to Indigenous regional and state sporting carnivals which draw together governments, sporting codes and clubs, mentors and role models, corporates and businesses to address health, education and employment Closing the Gap targets. Community involvement in sport included encouraging Indigenous people to become involved in the administration, umpiring and coaching positions in addition to playing sport. The committee recommends that the government acknowledge and develop Indigenous participation in these supporting roles around sport.

The rates of Indigenous females are much lower than the participation rates for males in a majority of the sporting codes and organisations, and the committee has made recommendations to government to prioritise sports programs for Indigenous women.

Positive messages of cultural celebration and pride at all sporting events can also help with Closing the Gap targets. We note that several sporting organisations have reconciliation action plans and recommend that this continue.

The committee received over 58 submissions and held six public hearings. I also note, in the last few seconds, that the honourable member for Blair told me that the greatest participation for Indigenous women in the twenties was in cricket, which, I think, is a very interesting fact to note.

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.

Photo of Jill HallJill Hall (Shortland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Does the member for Page wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated in on a future occasion?

10:30 am

Photo of Janelle SaffinJanelle Saffin (Page, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the House take note of the report.

Photo of Jill HallJill Hall (Shortland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In accordance with standing order 39, the debate is adjourned. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting day.