Inquiry seeks increased Indigenous sport involvement

It’s handed down its findings after a nine-month inquiry and says encouraging Indigenous Australian to participate in sport could help close the disadvantage gap.

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Amanda Cavill reports.

 

The parliamentary committee into Indigenous sport has called for a federal review of current programs and form a view on what can be improved to increase participation.

 

Committee Chair Janelle Saffin says sport can provide valuable opportunities for communities to come together.

 

And she says improving Indigenous participation in sport can help close the gap in important areas.

 

“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 has made 11 recommendations including the need for a national framework for sports programs specifically targeted at Close the Gap target areas.

 

It also wants the expansion of a highly successful Indigenous sports program, called “Learn Earn Legend!”

 

The program provides Indigenous students with the support to finish high school and go on to more study, training or enter the workforce.

 

Ms Saffin says it has proved highly successful and could be expanded.

 

“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 the Commonwealth Government extend the funding of the Learn Earn Legend! program. It really is a great program.”

 

Committee deputy chairwoman Dr Sharman Stone says there also needs to be a focus on encouraging Indigenous girls to become involved in sport.

 

Dr Stone says girls are much less likely to be involved with the typically male-dominated sports but this could be addressed by specifically targeted programs modelled on the Clontarf program, which uses football to attract and retain young Indigenous men at school.

 

“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. 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.”

 

The Committee is also calling on the government to find funding to help support Indigenous sporting carnivals.

 

Dr Stone says short-term funding is all very well but a long-term view needs to be taken.

 

“This is typical of Indigenous program funding, of course, and unfortunately on many other levels of state and federal funding, but it’s 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.”

 

But given the report has been handed down in the last sitting week of the 43rd parliament, it’s unlikely there’ll be any response from government until after the September 14 election.

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