Culture and Environment

It is important that your sport organisation develops a culture and environment that shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are welcomed, valued, and respected. There are many actions your organisation can take to make your environment more welcoming and inclusive.

Clear boundaries need to be set around acceptable attitudes and behaviours. An inclusive sport organisation rejects discrimination, harassment and bullying towards everyone. To improve the presence and participation of Aboriginal people in your sport it is important to take steps to address race discrimination, including unconscious bias which could lead to discrimination. Not only is this against the law but it creates a toxic culture that discourages Aboriginal involvement.

Codes of conduct and other policies addressing inappropriate behaviour and unfair decision making must be in place, communicated and enforced by leaders throughout the organisation. In Victoria, it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of their race or characteristics associated with their race, which includes colour, descent or ancestry, nationality or ethnic background, or any characteristics associated with a particular race. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights are also protected under anti-discrimination laws.

To learn more, visit the website of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

Cultural awareness training

Every individual has their own experiences, perspectives and beliefs. Making sport more welcoming and inclusive involves understanding other perspectives, and the needs of people of all ages, backgrounds and ability. But you are not expected to already know everything about everyone. Therefore, cultural awareness training is an excellent option for any sport organisation aiming to encourage greater participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Specific training programs do exist, and your organisation is encouraged to consider providing a training session for your staff or volunteers. This is important at both the state association level and at local clubs. Training may help develop:

  • Knowledge of the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Attitudes and understanding of diverse cultures
  • Increased knowledge of different languages and behavior styles from different cultures
  • More inclusive workplaces or club environments

Various organisations can provide cultural awareness training, so it is recommended you engage with training providers to find out if the program meets your needs. Some organisations which provide cultural awareness training include the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Services Association Ltd (VACSAL), and the Koorie Heritage Trust (KHT).

Organisations participating in the State Sport Association Participation Program found that organising cross-cultural awareness training was very beneficial in supporting staff to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners

A great practical step to take is to ensure your organisation conducts a Welcome to Country, or an Acknowledgement of Country, before your games, events, or meetings. Sport facilities occupy a substantial amount of land both public and privately owned, yet irrespective of the current ownership, it is important to recognise the traditional custodians and owners of land where sporting events are held.

  • A Welcome to Country is a ceremony performed by an Aboriginal Elder or representative from the Traditional owner group on which the event is taking place, and is commonly held before events, functions or forums.
  • An Acknowledgement of Country is normally performed by the first speaker at a function or event, and “recognises that Victoria has a strong and proud Aboriginal history and complex ownership and land stewardship systems stretching back many thousands of years. It pays respect to the Traditional Custodians.” (source: Aboriginal Victoria, Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners).

Cricket Australia’s A Sport for All resource includes suggestions for an Acknowledgement of Country script:

  • Example 1: I would like to pay my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this meeting takes place, and also pay respect to Elders both past and present.
  • Example 2: I would like to Acknowledge the _______________ people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to Elders both past and present of the_______________nation and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people present. (source: Cricket Australia, A Sport For All)

Aboriginal Victoria has a list of maps relating to the heritage of Aboriginal people, and could be useful for identifying the location of nations or languages.

Promoting safe and inclusive environments

Sporting organisations can take practical steps to help their environment become welcoming to Aboriginal people. They can:

  • Work with any Aboriginal people within your sport or club and understand the positive influence they can have on recruitment of new participants. This promotes cultural safety – where people feel physically, socially and emotionally safe in the environment they are in.
  • Have staff or volunteers participate in cultural awareness training.
  • Aim to promote a diverse range of Aboriginal people as role models, including various genders, people with a disability, older adults and people from LGBTIQ communities.
  • Encourage and support Aboriginal people to take on leadership roles within your sport – as committee members, coaches, officials and event organisers.
  • Identify local leaders and community groups, such as Aboriginal Co-operatives, to partner with as their knowledge of the local community, including customs will benefit the development of any new activities or offerings.

Case Study: Cricket Australia’s A Sport for All resource is a great example of a wholistic approach to inclusive sport, including Aboriginal people. The resource includes excellent information about how to engage with Aboriginal people, including practical tips for engagement and communication. Click here to download the Cricket Australia Guide to Diversity for Aboriginal people.