Cricket Australia and The Australian National University (ANU) today released For the Love of the Game, an 18-month research project into the history of Indigenous cricket.
Commissioned by Cricket Australia and undertaken by leading ANU researchers Professor Mick Dodson AM and Dr Bill Fogarty, For the Love of the Game traces the history of cricket within Indigenous communities back more than 150 years.
Professor Dodson, Director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies (NCIS), and Dr Fogarty, Research Fellow at NCIS, travelled the country to talk to Indigenous communities and Indigenous cricketers to work out why Aborigines have been historically under-represented in cricket.
As well as providing a comprehensive history of the involvement of Indigenous Australians in cricket, the study presents a series of recommendations for Australian Cricket to help guide its ongoing work with Indigenous communities.
Andrew Ingleton, Cricket Australia Executive General Manager, Game and Market Development, said the study will complement Australian Cricket's Indigenous programs.
"This is the first time an Indigenous cricket study of this scale has been undertaken," Mr Ingleton said.
"Our Indigenous cricket programs have progressed significantly in recent years. At the grassroots more than 26,000 Indigenous Australians participated in cricket last year.
"And at the elite level, we have record numbers of Indigenous Australians involved in the KFC T20 Big Bash League like Josh Lalor, Dan Christian and Ryan Lees, as well as players involved in male and female underage national teams such as Ashleigh Gardner.
"While we have made some significant gains, including establishing a formal Reconciliation Action Plan, we recognise there is still a lot of work to be done to engage Indigenous Australians in cricket to ensure we are truly a sport for all Australians, and this study will help inform our ongoing programs."
Among the key recommendations, the For the Love of the Game report said cricket authorities should formally acknowledge the impact a history of social exclusion has had on the disengagement and under-representation of Indigenous Australians in cricket.
As part of its efforts to formally recognise the full history of Indigenous cricket, Cricket Australia will work with the Indigenous community to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the All-Aboriginal team that toured the United Kingdom in 1868.
Lead researcher Professor Dodson said he hoped the report would help encourage more Indigenous Australians to take up the sport at all levels.
"The research team was truly heartened and inspired by the enthusiasm, talent and dedication that Indigenous men and women around the country have for cricket," Professor Dodson said.
"It was made very clear to us that Indigenous people of all ages and in all areas very much want to participate in cricket.
"Cricket Australia has already done excellent work in involving Indigenous Australians in their game. Cricket Australia have embraced our research, and have recognised the need for developments so that cricket may be a sport for all Australians."
The research was conducted in two phases. The first phase was a review of historical and current research literature and findings on the subject of Indigenous Cricket in Australia and the role of racism in sport.
In the second phase interviews were conducted with both present and past Indigenous players, cricket administrators, umpires, historians, volunteers, parents, teachers and community members with interests in cricket. This approach amounted to 93 interviewees, seven focus groups and 58 formal interviews in 12 different locations, resulting in 77 audio hours.
Cricket Australia accompanied the release of the study with a response to its recommendations.
The response acknowledges the significant work undertaken by the researchers and aligns many of its recommendations with work being undertaken by Australian Cricket in the areas of Indigenous cricket strategy and staffing, funding, high performance, participation and governance, including the National Indigenous Cricket Championships, male and female National Indigenous Squads, and a nationwide partnership with the Clontarf Foundation.