.

  • Written by Rona Macniven, Research Fellow, University of Sydney
Sports have long been seen as a way to improve outcomes in Indigenous communities, but more research is needed to structure better programs. Paul Miller/AAP

Indigenous Australians have a long and proud heritage in both traditional sports and games, and in modern sport through the achievements of people like Johnathan Thurston and Ashleigh Barty.

There’s also long been the belief that sport can be used as a lever for improvement in outcomes for Indigenous communities. The 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, for instance, found that sport and recreation can play a role in the reduction of offending behaviour among Indigenous peoples.


Read more: In both schooling and sport, Australia has slowly come to recognise its Aboriginal talent pool


And while there are a number of physical activity and sports programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today, a parliamentary inquiry in 2013 recommended that much more comprehensive evaluation of sports programs should be conducted to gauge their impact.

The report said some government sports programs

are being rolled out with very little understanding of how the Close the Gap outcomes are being achieved.

Another study noted that sport has often been seen as a “panacea” for myriad problems in Indigenous communities, and this belief has led to

ambitious, ill-defined and, in terms of evaluation, often elusive social outcome goals.

What could sport achieve?

To better understand the impact sport can have on Indigenous communities and how government investment could be better targeted, we undertook a review of 20 Australian studies published in peer-reviewed journals between 2003 and 2018.

The research looked at how sport and physical activity programs for Indigenous adults or children improved outcomes in six different areas:

1) education 2) employment 3) culture 4) social and emotional well-being 5) life skills 6) crime reduction

Because of the low level of evidence in this area so far, we included all relevant studies. The 20 studies involved over 2,500 individual participants located in urban, rural and remote areas across Australia.

Our review, which was published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, found some evidence that sport and physical activity increases Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander school attendance, improves self-esteem and can enhance cultural connectedness, values and identity.

But the studies were inconclusive on whether sport and physical activity can have longer-term benefits, such as improving educational or employment outcomes or reducing crime.


Read more: The long and complicated history of Aboriginal involvement in football


Education

Eleven of the studies we reviewed examined education. Overall, most showed positive outcomes for young people involved in sport.

A number of programs were shown to improve school attendance, such as two AFL youth programs in Cape York and the Northern Territory aimed at encouraging school attendance and improving behaviour through Australian rules football.

Other programs showed improvements in school retention and achievement rates, while two helped Indigenous youth prepare for higher education and success beyond school.

Employment

Only one study examined the impact of sport on employment: the AFL youth program in the NT. Almost all of the participants and stakeholders felt the program helped players to secure paid work or training, but the study didn’t link to employment data specifically.

Culture

Nine studies examined culture. And like education, most programs showed positive outcomes for participants when it came to cultural connections, values and identity.

For example, in Victoria, the Fitzroy Stars community sports club study found that social and community connection was an important way for participants to strengthen and maintain their cultural values and identity.

And the study on the impact of the Swan Nyungar sports education program for young people in Perth found the success of participants depended on incorporating their families and culture in the instruction.

Social and emotional well-being

Twelve studies examined social and emotional well-being. Improved self-esteem and confidence were found in the participants of several programs, such as the WA Girls Academy and Indigenous surfing programs in several states.

A study of Queensland’s Deadly Choices program, which aims to help Indigenous people make healthier lifestyle choices, found that participants had increased confidence and were more proactive about preventing chronic disease.

Life skills

Five studies examined “life skills.” The positive outcomes ranged from improved attitudes and lifestyle choices ([the AFL Cape York program]) to hygiene and health, self-reliance and fundraising skills (the WA Girls Academy).

Crime

Only five studies examined the impact of sport on crime prevention and prison inmate management, and the findings were limited.

The Aboriginal Power Cup, another youth football program in South Australia, was found to have positive impacts when it came to school achievement, but the study didn’t directly examine aspects of crime.

A study into a prison sport program in central Australia found that it was an effective diversion for inmates, but there were only six participants in the study, which is not a very robust sample size.

Meanwhile, the impact of the NT AFL program on community safety and violence was unclear, as was the impact of a sports program in Arnhem Land that aimed to steer Indigenous youth away from substance abuse.

This is a key challenge for researchers in this area – identifying the specific impacts of sport and physical activity programs on societal problems such as crime in which many factors come into play.


Read more: Radical rethink of Closing the Gap required, despite some progress


More evidence is needed

Substantial challenges remain in accurately measuring how sports programs like these can lead to better outcomes for Indigenous communities. Scoping reviews, for instance, do not include an assessment of study quality and therefore may overestimate the findings.

More studies are needed to track the impact of sport through a range of indicators. We also still need to know more about how programs can improve employment and crime outcomes.

With more robust evidence, a more targeted plan can be made for future programs that are better suited to the needs of individual communities.

John Evans receives funding from the Australian Research Council

Rachel Wilson receives funding from the ARC

Rona Macniven does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Rona Macniven, Research Fellow, University of Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/are-sports-programs-closing-the-gap-in-indigenous-communities-the-evidence-is-limited-120413

Plants are going extinct up to 350 times faster than the historical norm

Plant extinctions have skyrocketed, driven in large part by land clearing and climate change. Graphic Node/Unsplash, CC BY-SAEarth is seeing an unprecedented loss of species, which some ecologists are...

Jaco Le Roux, Associate Professor, Macquarie University - avatar Jaco Le Roux, Associate Professor, Macquarie University

Vital Signs: economically, Australia is at risk of becoming Germany, and not in a good way

Once, emulating Germany would be something to be proud of. Not at the moment. ShutterstockIt’s four years since then Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned Australia had been heading to “a Gree...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

'What is wrong with me? I'm never happy and I hate school'

Remember, there is always someone to talk to about these things. Wes Mountain Hi, I was just wondering if something’s wrong with me because I’m never happy and never want to do anything a...

Louise Remond, Clinical Psychologist, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Louise Remond, Clinical Psychologist, University of Technology Sydney

Friday essay: how a Bengali book in Broken Hill sheds new light on Australian history

The large book bearing a handwritten English label, 'The Holy Koran', was not a Quran, but a 500-page volume of Bengali Sufi poetry. Samia KhatunSome 1,000 kilometres inland from Sydney, over the Blu...

Samia Khatun, Senior Lecturer, SOAS, University of London - avatar Samia Khatun, Senior Lecturer, SOAS, University of London

Unlawful strip searches are on the rise in NSW and police aren’t being held accountable

Being strip searched by the police can be intrusive, humiliating and harmful. Typically, strip searches involve being required to strip naked in front of police officers, who often give the direction ...

Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law, UNSW - avatar Vicki Sentas, Senior Lecturer, UNSW Law, UNSW

How to make good arguments at school (and everywhere else)

There are more important things than winning an argument – like making everyone feel valued. www.shutterstock.comFrom as early as Grade 3 teachers start teaching children how to put across thei...

Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland - avatar Luke Zaphir, Researcher for the University of Queensland Critical Thinking Project; and Online Teacher at Education Queensland's IMPACT Centre, The University of Queensland

GM crops: to ban or not to ban? That's not the question

The South Australian government recently announced its intention to lift the long-standing statewide moratorium on genetically modified (GM) crops, following a statutory six-week consultation period. ...

Rachel A. Ankeny, Professor of History and Philosophy, and Deputy Dean Research (Faculty of Arts), University of Adelaide - avatar Rachel A. Ankeny, Professor of History and Philosophy, and Deputy Dean Research (Faculty of Arts), University of Adelaide

Grattan on Friday: Courting 'quiet Australians' from 'bubble central', it's been a remarkable first year for Scott Morrison

Can Scott Morrison maintain the image of separation from the Canberra elite, given he's its most powerful member? AAP/The ConversationEven Scott Morrison, with his abundant self-belief, couldn’t...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Trust Me, I’m An Expert: Why the Hong Kong protesters feel they have nothing to lose

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people again took to the streets in Hong Kong to protest against the government – the 11th straight weekend of demonstrations that began in June over a pro...

Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling - avatar Sunanda Creagh, Head of Digital Storytelling

We need a national renewables approach, or some states – like NSW – will miss out

In the absence of federal policy, states are pursing their own renewable targets. Karsten Würth/UnsplashAustralia’s primary federal renewable energy target – to have 33 terawatts of r...

Scott Hamilton, Strategic Advisory Panel Member, Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, University of Melbourne - avatar Scott Hamilton, Strategic Advisory Panel Member, Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, University of Melbourne

A Hippocratic Oath for data science? We’ll settle for a little more data literacy

Bias in, bias out: many algorithms have inherent design problems. Vintage Tone/Shutterstock I swear by Hypatia, by Lovelace, by Turing, by Fisher (and/or Bayes), and by all the statisticians and data ...

Lewis Mitchell, Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, University of Adelaide - avatar Lewis Mitchell, Senior Lecturer in Applied Mathematics, University of Adelaide

Australia's latest military commitment should spark assessment of how well we use our defence forces

Just when we thought Australia was getting serious about shifting priorities away from the Middle East to its own neighbourhood, the prime minister has announced another Middle East step up. Australia...

John Blaxland, Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University - avatar John Blaxland, Professor, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University

Australia bans video games for things you'd see in movies. But gamers can access them anyway

A screenshot from survival videogame DayZ. Bohemia InteractiveIn the last three months, the Australian Classification Board has “refused classification” for at least four video games &ndas...

Brendan Keogh, ARC DECRA Fellow, Queensland University of Technology - avatar Brendan Keogh, ARC DECRA Fellow, Queensland University of Technology

Victorian changes to gender on birth certificate will not increase sexual violence. Here's why

Under the proposed changes, TGD people in Victoria can change the gender on their birth certificate without having to undergo medical intervention. ShutterstockThe Victorian government is considering ...

Bianca Fileborn, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne - avatar Bianca Fileborn, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne

What kind of state values a freeway's heritage above the heritage of our oldest living culture?

The government intends to destroy Djab Wurrung sacred trees and sites to upgrade the Western Highway at the same time as it seeks heritage status for the Eastern Freeway. Allies Decolonising/gofundmeT...

Libby Porter, Professor of Urban Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University - avatar Libby Porter, Professor of Urban Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

Why full-fat milk is now OK if you're healthy, but reduced-fat dairy is still best if you're not

The Heart Foundation now backs full-fat milk if you're healthy. But it still recommends reduced-fat milk if you have high blood pressure or heart disease. from www.shutterstock.comThe Heart Foundation...

Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle - avatar Clare Collins, Professor in Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Newcastle

Tim Fischer – a man of courage and loyalty – dies from cancer

Tim Fischer aboard a one-off passenger train last month to raise money for the Albury Wodonga Cancer Centre trust fund. Sally Evans/ Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre Trust FundFormer deputy prime...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The Strait of Hormuz is the most important oil choke point in the world. Use our interactive map to explore it

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-NDAfter months of increasing tension between Iran and the US, on Tuesday the Morrison government committed a warship, surveillance aircraft and about 200 troops t...

Wes Mountain, Multimedia Editor - avatar Wes Mountain, Multimedia Editor

Greenland isn't Denmark's to sell: some essential reading for Trump on colonialism

The coast of Greenland is not for sale. ShutterstockDonald Trump is not the first US President to make an offer of buying Greenland from Denmark – but he might be the last. Home of some 56,00...

Felicity Jensz, Research associate professor, University of Münster - avatar Felicity Jensz, Research associate professor, University of Münster

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company

LifeStyle

A Guide for Tenants

The cost of purchasing a home has been increasing, and the size of deposits needed, make buying pr...

Top ways for men to look after their skin

According to Jack Simmons, from Aboutmen, more and more men are taking pride in their appearance a...

Top 10 Caravan Storage Tips & Tricks

Taking caravan trips is a popular Aussie pastime, but if you have spent more than a few days in ...

5 Meaningful Gifts Your Mother Would Simply Love

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to amaze the person who loves you the most with a thoughtful gift? Why ...