The cultural transition of Indigenous Australian athletes into professional sport

Richard L. Light, John R. Evans, David Lavallee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
158 Downloads (Pure)


This article reports on a study that inquired into the journeys of sixteen Indigenous Australian athletes from their first touch of the footy to the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL) that identified two distinct stages of their journeys. These were: (1) the development of expertize and of a distinctly Aboriginal style of play from their first touch of a footy to around the age of thirteen and, (2) a process of cultural transitioning toward and into the AFL and NRL. This article takes an interdisciplinary approach to focus on the second stage of transitioning into the world of professional sport and sport as business. Identifying this as a process of cultural transitioning from local Aboriginal culture to the culture of professional sport provided insight into this transitioning process while illuminating the profound importance of culture in this process. It also helped identify the ways in which tensions between local approaches to ‘footy’ as play and cultural expression and professional sport as work, within the global culture of sport-as-business, were manifested in the challenges that the participants had to overcome. This article thus contributes to knowledge about Indigenous development of sporting expertize, of the specific challenges they face in transitioning into the global culture of commodified sport and how they succeed from a cultural perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-426
Number of pages12
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number4
Early online date19 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2019


  • Indigenous sport
  • Australian sport
  • Cultural transitioning
  • Culture
  • Global
  • Local
  • Commodification
  • Economic rationalism


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