4. Australias Sporting Identity

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  • Australias Sporting Identity

    Digital Unit

    Australias Sporting Identity

    1 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

  • Australias Sporting Identity

    2 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    Things I would like to learn in this topic include

    For a full list of relevant websites, navigate to the web destinations for NSW PASS via the Student Lounge at www.pearsonplaces.com.au.

    Web Destination

    For details on the required outcomes for this unit, go to the website:


    UNIT OUTCOMES: 2.1, 2.2, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4

    We thank the following for their contributions to this unit:

    Alamy Corbis Australia Pty Ltd

    Dreamstime iStockphoto

    Getty Images Australia Pty Ltd News Digital Media Newspix/News Ltd

    Nicole Tuck Powerhouse Museum

    Shutterstock State Library of Queensland

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    Unit vocabulary list

    Achievement Identity Professional

    Amateur Influence Recreational

    Endeavours Participation Spectator

    Facilities Perception Sponsorship

    Funding Performance Technology







  • Australias Sporting Identity

    3 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    Australias sporting identityA generally temperate climate, relatively low-cost access to tennis courts, golf courses and other sporting facilities, and the presence of beaches and waterways, open spaces and bushland, encourage Australians to take up outdoor activities as part of their lifestyle. It is not uncommon for crowds of more than 100,000 to be in Melbourne for an AFL grand final.

    Perceptions of Australia and sportMany people view sport as a particularly important part of Australian society. Some have gone as far as to call it a national obsession.

    Herbert Warren Wind in a Sports Illustrated article in 1960 commented:

    Australia is a land completely surrounded by water and inundated with athletes. Australia is a sports playing, sports watching, sports talking, altogether sports-minded country such as the world has never known before.

    The wife of a former United States ambassador to Australia wrote:

    Living in Australia is like living in a gymnasiumtheres always somebody practicing something.

    Olympic President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, wrote in the Sunday Telegraph on 16 January 1999:

    At the time of writing, Australia (with a population of eighteen million, remember) are world cricket champions, world rugby champions, world tennis champions, world netball champions, world womans hockey champions, and world men and women surfing champions. Further, on per capita basis, Australia was by far the most outstanding performer at the 1996 Olympic Games.

  • Australias Sporting Identity

    4 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    History of sport in AustraliaIt is important to examine the origins of sport in Australia to understand why sport is so significant to Australian society.

    1788Sport arrived in Australia with the first settlement in 1788. Many of the officers and convicts brought with them the sporting traditions of that era; horseracing, cricket, boxing and sports involving animals such as cockfighting. These sports were played as a release from the pressures of work.

    While many of the settlers had a passion for sport, they had limited opportunities to pursue sporting activities before 1850. Australia had few facilities, few sporting administrators to organise contests and few entrepreneurs to sponsor sport. Hyde Park in Sydney served as a sports ground and a place where sheep grazed, soldiers paraded and the general population strolled. It was also the venue for the first race meeting in 1810, the first club cricket match in 1826 and the first rugby union match in 1865.

    1820By the 1820s, sporting clubs began to form. The Sydney Turf Club was one of the first in 1825, followed by the Australian Cricket Club in 1826. Similar clubs were established in other colonies.

    1850s and 60sUntil the 1850s, sport in Australia was informal, occasional, violent and mostly male-dominated. Women were largely excluded, except at times when they could be spectators. Bathing was one of the few recreational pursuits considered acceptable for women in early Australian society.

  • Australias Sporting Identity

    5 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    Until this time Australian sport largely mirrored British models; partly for the immigrants to remind themselves of home, but also to prove that English sport and culture could flourish in this new society.

    It was during the 1850s that Australian sport became more distinctive and was able to develop it own sporting traditions, adapting them to its unique outdoor environment. The gold rushes brought greater wealth and a larger, more diverse population. The Chinese brought their betting traditions; the Cornish introduced wrestling in mining towns; the Germans established sports such as gymnastics and the Scandinavians brought an interest in snow sports. Incomes increased substantially, allowing ordinary Australians more money to spend on sporting pursuits. In the 1860s, holidays such as the half-day Saturday provided more time for sport. A growing network of schools and colleges started inter-school and inter-university competitions. Extended local and city governments assisted with the development of more recreational venues with land being plentiful.


    By the 1850s and 60s, a number of sports in Australia had become well established. Select one of the sports below and provide a brief outline of its early development in Australian society.

    Using the Internet, research one of the following:





    language tip...

    To outline means to sketch in general terms.




  • Australias Sporting Identity

    6 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

  • Australias Sporting Identity

    7 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    1860s to 1900sFrom the 1860s to the 1900s, sport in Australia was classified as either amateur or professional. It was believed that a true gentleman should be an amateur who played for enjoyment rather than for profit. Amateurism helped to maintain the social boundaries. Playing sport involved expensive fees, meaning the working class was largely excluded from joining sporting clubs. Participating in sports such as cricket, tennis, golf, rowing, yachting, hunting and horseracing, remained a pastime of the wealthy. The working class therefore needed to develop their own competitions. Games such as soccer and rugby league developed into the peoples games and became professional sports, to support players travelling expenses and time off work during competition.

    The chance to earn extra money by gambling on games, enabled competitions to be regular and was supported by the masses. For the working class, sport provided an exciting break from daily work. The outcomes of matches mattered greatly and were discussed throughout the week at work, in pubs and at social gatherings.

    1900sMany amateur sports cancelled their competitions during this time. It was believed that battalions of sportsmen could lead Australias war effort because of their youth, physical condition and the preparation sport had given them. Other working class professional sports continued their competitions in the midst of great controversy.

    The emergence of physical education programs in Australian schoolsBetween 1911 and 1931, the Commonwealth Department of Defence assisted in the development and implementation of a national physical training scheme in Australian schools. It was designed for 12- to 14-year-old males and was the first coordinated approach to physical education in schools. The design and subject matter of these physical training programs and lessons focused on developing disciplined and productive future citizens. Each lesson was constructed using the same formula:

    introduction and breathing exercises

    trunk bending backward and forward

    arm bending and stretching

    balance exercises

    shoulder blade exercises

    trunk turning and bending sideways

    marching, running, jumping and games

    breathing exercises.

    Teachers were required to memorise a precise series of exercises for each lesson and deliver their instructions using specific teaching cues. These drills were superseded in the 1940s as it became clear that physical education programs could be more than just a series of exercise drills.

  • Australias Sporting Identity

    8 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    After participating in a physical training session based on exercise drills from the early 1900s, answer the following questions.

    1 Reflect on the training session you have just completed. How does it compare to a training session you might do today?

    2 Can you identify any health benefits from participating in this session?


  • Australias Sporting Identity

    9 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    1950s to 60sThe 1950s and 60s are still considered glorious years for Australian sport. Champions emerged in all major sports. In tennis for example, Australia won fifteen Davis Cup titles, eleven singles and thirteen doubles Wimbledon titles, nine French Open and thirteen US Open titles. Melbourne hosted the Olympics in 1956, which was the first country in the southern hemisphere to have this honour. Australia won an unprecedented and unequalled thirteen gold medals to finish third in the medal count.

    Women played a prominent role in sport during this era. At the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, they won seven of Australias thirteen gold medals even though they comprised only 20 per cent of the Australian team, less than 25 per cent of Olympic events were open to them and nearly every social institution from womens magazines to trade unions agreed that their primary responsibility was motherhood.

    The 1960s was also an important decade for Indigenous Australians. Individual sports such as rugby league began to recruit Indigenous players who enjoyed great sporting success.

    LITERACY ACTIVITYMatch the champion

    Some of the Australian sporting champions of this era are listed in the table below. Match the champion with their sport. There may be more than one champion in each sport.

    Sporting champion Sport Sporting champion Sport

    Ken Rosewall Marjorie Jackson

    Lorraine Crapp Richie Benaud

    Peter Thomson Midget Farrelly

    Murray Rose John Landy

    John and Ilsa Konrads Rod Laver

    Dawn Fraser Jack Brabham

    Betty Cuthbert Bill Roycroft

    Russell Mockridge Shirley Strickland

    Herb Elliot Ron Clarke

    Swimming Formula One Motor Racing Womens Track Tennis Golf Mens Distance Running Cycling Equestrian Cricket Surfing

  • Australias Sporting Identity

    10 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    1970s to 80sThe Australian youth of the 1960s and 70s began to challenge every major economic and social institution, including sport. Spectators of traditional sports began to expect better facilities, better seating and more excitement from sporting competitions. With alcohol consumption increasing, crowds became unruly with fights breaking out in the stands, streakers running onto fields and fans throwing beer cans at players. Sporting fixtures imposed new penalties for inappropriate behaviour at sporting competitions.

    During Whitlams time as Prime Minister in the early 1970s, his government developed the first coherent and comprehensive public policy on sport and established the Department of Sport, Recreation and Tourism. The new ministry provided capital assistance for sporting facilities and funding for travel, coaching and administration. Three years later, Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser dismantled many of Whitlams reforms including the policy of sport for all and assistance to sports controlling bodies and local communities.

    The Whitlam government was the first to use sport as a tool in foreign policy. For example, Whitlam declared that Australia would ostracise South Africas minority racist regime. His Labor Government prohibited racially selected South African teams from playing in Australia. Subsequent governments have since developed this strategy also.

    During the 1970s and 80s, there was a steep decline in amateur sports within Australia.Most sports became professional due to the lure of lucrative sponsorship deals for players and increased media exposure. Australia also needed to keep pace with the rest of the world where sportsmen and women typically competed as professionals.

    Australian Institute of Sport (AIS)The motivation for the establishment of the AIS came from the dismal results at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976. Set up with the task of developing elite sportsmen and women, and also improving Australias image on the international sports scene, it was opened by the then Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, on Australia Day in 1981. The Institute was initially based in Canberra, but now has a network of campuses around Australia.

  • Australias Sporting Identity

    11 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group


    Two groups will be assigned to debate either for or against the following quote. Take note of any main points raised by each group and answer the following questions.

    Without the Australian Institute of Sport, Australian sporting performances would suffer greatly in international competition.

    Group one main points:

    Group two main points:

    Which team do you agree with? Why?

  • Australias Sporting Identity

    12 Pearson Australia, a division of Pearson Australia Group

    1990s to presentAustralia now has more than 120 national sporting organisations and thousands of state, regional and club bodies. It is estimated that 6.5 million people, about a third of the population, are registered sports participants.

    Many more are involved in activities such as fishing, bushwalking, recreational boating, horseriding and fitness programs. Water sports have a huge following and the high interest in sailing is reflected in Australias entry in every Americas Cup challenge since 1967. In September 1983, Australia II became the first foreign yacht to win the cup held by the US since 1851.

    Australia has hosted the Olympic Games twice, as well as hosting the Paralympics in Sydney in 2000. Australia has been the host nation for four Commonwealth Games, in Sydney (1938), Perth (1962), Brisbane (1982) and Melbourne (2006), and will host the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Australia is one of only three nations to have competed at every modern Olympic Games and has been represented at all Commonwealth Games.

    Including the 2012 London Olympics and 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, Australians have won a total of 142 summer Olympic and 803 Comm...