Cathy Freeman wins gold in the 400m at the Sydney Olympics

A Sporting Nation

Sport occupies an important place in Australian life and from the earliest colonial period sport has helped shape our national identity. Over the years, sport has mirrored Australian culture, with the optimism and growing pains that have characterized our national development reflected in our sporting history. 

The first organized group of Australian sportspeople to travel overseas were a cricket team comprised solely of Aboriginal players. This endeavour was a progressive step for a young country but the tour was marred by controversy. This first foray into international sport serves as a sobering reminder for a nation still working to find a balance between colonialism and Indigenous life.

In the early to mid 20th century the boxer Les Darcy and thoroughbred horse Phar Lap captured the imagination of Australians everywhere. The success of our sportspeople locally and against international competition helped as we developed a sense of self that includes yet stretches beyond our Indigenous and European beginnings. 

The game of cricket is still an important summertime tradition for many Australians but we have developed our own football code known as Australian Rules Football (AFL). We have embraced the beauty of our natural environment with the adoption of ocean based competitions such as surf life saving, swimming, kayaking and surfing. Australia’s Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is an annual race that begins in Sydney Harbour and ends in the capital of Tasmania, Hobart. The race distance is approximately 630 nautical miles making it one of the top three offshore yacht races in the world. As Australia continues to diversify the population has embraced sports such as soccer, baseball and basketball.  

Australians are proud of their sporting traditions and successes and this sentiment was broadcast to the world during the 2000 Olympic Games that were hosted in Sydney. During both the Spring and Fall semesters students can attend cricket, AFL, rugby league and rugby union fixtures. The intersections of media, politics, indigeneity, gender, youth and identity are on display at sporting events and students are encouraged to consider Australian sport as a lens by which to examine Australian culture.