'Game over': Indigenous Australian sportsmen and athletic retirement

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2014, (2), pp. 40 - 59
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In Australia, three sports in particular - boxing, rugby league and Australian Rules football - have attracted many Indigenous1 competitors, both in professional and elite amateur ranks. This paper investigates the retirement experiences of Indigenous Australian sportsmen; in doing so, it explores a significant gap in knowledge. There is no body of research into the athletic retirement of elite Indigenous athletes, thus very little is known about how they have prepared for and adjusted to a life after competing in sport. The study analyses the roles and responsibilities of sport organisations in terms of athletic retirement planning, since these bodies arguably have a duty of care to their employees and, in the case of player associations, to their members. The research is underpinned by an Indigenous philosophy known as Dadirri, which emphasises deep and respectful listening, and the concern is to understand policy and practice in respect of athletic retirement. The study concludes that Indigenous Australian sportsmen face complex post-sport challenges due to (a) the primacy of their athletic identity, (b) assumptions about their 'natural' acumen as athletes, (c) the impact of racialised stereotypes, and (d) profound commitments to extended families and communities. Athletic retirement is therefore likely to be particularly challenging for Indigenous sports-people. Consequently, providers of athlete career and education programs need to develop policies and provide resources that cater for the complex transition needs of Indigenous athletes.
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