Indigenous Surfing

The Australian Sports Commission’s Indigenous Sport Program (ISP), which works to increase the number of Indigenous people participating in sport, has partnered with Surfing Australia and the University of Queensland to conduct a three-year (2009–11) research project measuring the impacts of sport on Indigenous Australian communities.

It will be funded by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, an international apolitical organisation that uses the positive influence of sport to address social challenges.

The idea for the research project came out of a need, identified by the ISP, to substantiate claims around the benefits of sport with empirical evidence, not just on the basis of anecdotal accounts. “This is the first time that research of this nature has been conducted in this field” said ISP Senior Sports Consultant Richard Kilian.

ISP has formed a useful partnership with the University of Queensland to provide expertise in the development of the research agenda. Similarly, Surfing Australia has joined ISP as the organisation primarily responsible for providing the context and sites in which the study can take place.

“Surfing Australia is proud to be chosen as the primary sport to be utilised for this very significant research project. We believe this recognises the excellent fit that exists between surfing and Indigenous communities and will be a welcome addition to the already excellent work being done through the ISP and our member states” said Chris Symington, Sports Development Manager for Surfing Australia.

The research project will use a case study approach, focusing on each individual ASC Indigenous surfing project community. In the preliminary stages the researchers will engage with approximately six communities, ranging in locations from South Australia to across the eastern seaboard.

It will focus on the key areas of viability, sustainability and participation in the surfing projects; and networks of interaction developed through the projects, and associated benefits (or otherwise) of these networks.

‘Of particular importance to this project is how the principle of social capital is both defined and utilised to better understand the impact of Indigenous sport projects on communities and in particular how surfing as an area of physical activity contributes to lives of people in those communities,’ said Dr Steven Rynne of the University of Queensland.

A showcase launch for the project took place in February this year, in which sporting superstars Cathy Freeman, Layne Beachley and Steve Waugh visited an Indigenous surfing project in Jan Juc, Victoria. Initial site visits then commenced in October with preliminary data being collected to provide a framework for more detailed analysis as the project moves forward.

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