Encouraging Indigenous cricketers

12 February 2014

With the Ashes safely back in Australian hands and the first test due to start in South Africa this week, ANU has launched a new program to encourage more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to play cricket.

ANU Professor Mick Dodson and Dr William Fogarty from the National Centre for Indigenous Studies, with support from Cricket Australia, will travel around the country to examine how Indigenous communities engage with cricket.

"Our research team wants to find out how we can get more Indigenous people around the country involved in cricket, at both an amateur and an elite level," Professor Dodson said.

"We believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can make a renewed mark on the game."

Enjoyed by millions of Australians, cricket is central to Australian culture and Indigenous Australians have played a significant role in the game's history.

In 1868, an Indigenous cricket team became the first Australian sporting team to travel overseas when they went on a 47-match tour of England.

But only three Indigenous Australians have represented Australia at a national level: Faith Thomas, Jason Gillespie and Dan Christian.

In comparison, 10 per cent of Australian Football League and around 13 per cent of National Rugby League players are Indigenous.

Cricket Australia's support of the research project reflects the organisation's strategy to better engage Indigenous Australians.

Professor Dodson and Dr Fogarty will travel to each state and territory as part of a one-year project to understand the role cricket currently plays or potentially could play in contributing to the wellbeing of Indigenous communities.

The research will involve analysing existing information about Indigenous cricket in Australia  including who plays the game, where they live, and what factors may limit their participation.

"Cricket has the capacity to strengthen educational participation, social engagement and individual health and wellbeing, in a way that sports like AFL and rugby league do for many Indigenous people," Dr Fogarty said.

"Is cricket seen as an appealing sport to both males and females? What can be done to encourage more Indigenous people to join their local cricket club? What happens in places where there is no club? These are some of the questions we're going to pose during our research," Dr Fogarty said.

The researchers will also examine existing successful youth engagement strategies to understand what does and doesn't work when it comes to getting Indigenous people involved in sport.

The project is co-funded by Cricket Australia and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at ANU.