The notion of sport as a cultural offset has gained great popularity over the past few decades as a symbol of self-determination and empowerment for Indigenous peoples in Australia.

This article by Lee K. Sheppard, Steven B. Rynne, and Jon M. Willis, involves an examination of Indigenous ways of using sport to culturally offset the effects of colonization from Indigenous perspectives.

This account offers insights into the elements that encompass Indigenous resistance - racial injustice; the enactment of a sometimes-negative oppositional culture; cultural maintenance; the reformulation of a positive Indigenous identity; the development of Indigenous political movements; and resistance to sport as a weapon in the arsenal of colonization.

This consideration of sport as a site of resistance against the hegemony of the State is informed by Indigenous voices, so as to offer a more nuanced understanding of the intersections between sport, development, and Indigenous peoples in Australia.

This paper sought to critically evolve the view that in Australia, as elsewhere, sport is solely a site of colonization through elimination of traditional games, ‘civilization’ / assimilation through Western sports, and ongoing control of participation.

Rather, the authors aimed to unpack the idea that despite Indigenous peoples’ colonized state of being, they have actively used sport to forge their own positive future pathways to resist the hegemony of the State in various ways.

To achieve the aim, the authors made use of Broome’s (Osmond, 2019) five core elements:

  • injustice in the context of racial injustice
  • enactment of a sometimes negative oppositional culture
  • cultural maintenance
  • the reformulation of a positive Indigenous identity, and; 
  • the development of an Indigenous political movement in the context of sport.

The paper showed that despite injustices imposed upon Australian Indigenous peoples, and the hardships they endured under foreign rule, Indigenous peoples have reclaimed their Ways of Doing and Being by incorporating European sports, originally introduced to assimilate them into a foreign society, or rejecting Sport for Development interventions in ways that resist the hegemony of the State.

The authors showed that Australian Indigenous peoples played ‘games’ for their own purposes and enjoyment while appearing to comply with the rules and goals of their colonial oppressors.

Resisting in subtle and sometimes overt ways, Indigenous peoples’ involvement in ‘play’ and ‘games’ is therefore at once a performance of compliance, defiance, resistance, and existential joy.



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