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  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sports Men and Women

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have played traditional games for thousands of years, and have achieved distinction in organised sports since the mid-nineteenth century. Many of these sporting heroes have attracted the attention of creative writers who have recorded their achievements in forms such as fiction, poetry, biography and drama.

    And, of course, there is the theory that the form of AFL football originated from a game played by local Aboriginal people around Melbourne.

    This trail presents some of the information in BlackWords about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sportspeople. Some of these stories celebrate great sporting achievements, but others also examine the cultural obstacles that Indigenous sportspeople have faced throughout history. Some items can be viewed online and others will be accessible at your local library or bookshop.

    This trail is by no means comprehensive, and so we encourage you to look for more examples in your library or online and to explore BlackWords and AustLit further.

  • Explore, Search, Discover

    Find more BlackWords information by going to AustLit's Advanced Search form where you can limit your search results to the BlackWords project by selecting BlackWords in the 'Limit to AustLit Project' option, or search for authors with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage by selecting cultural heritage under the 'Personal details' option.

  • Autobiography/Biography/Life Stories

  • Learning the Ropes : The Life Story of a 'King of Knockouts' by Keith B Saunders

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.

    'From the lean and terrifying days of the Depression in rural New South Wales to the exhilaration and excess of Australian boxing in the '60s and after, the life of boxer Keith Saunders has been extraordinary.

    In this fast-paced, funny autobiography that includes some electrifying first-hand accounts of great Australian fights, we glimpse a little of the indulgent world that opened to a few successful boxers, the frustration felt by those Australians who endure racial indignities, and also some of the horror and tragedy of the boxing ring.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Legends : the AFL Indigenous Team of the Century by Sean Gorman

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from online.

    'Indigenous Australians have given us some of our greatest football champions. With names like Farmer, Winmar, Long, Rioli and Goodes, the stories of Indigenous footballers are some of the most compelling in the great game of AFL. The journey for some has been one of great struggle and difficulty. For them, football was the only way out.'

    'What makes their stories so important? This set of biographies uses the players’ own descriptions of their lives, their careers and the people who helped them achieve success.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Adam Goodes - Interview

    An interview with Adam Goodes by Fiona Scott-Norman in Bully for Them : Outstanding Australians on Hard Lessons Learned at School, Mulgrave : Affirm Press , 2014. pg. 15-24.

  • A Fortunate Accident : A Boy from Balranald by Kevin Coombs

    image of person or book cover
    Cover image courtesy of Fyer Library, The University of Queensland

    'An inspirational biography by Kevin Coombs of this extraordinarily positive Paralympian’s life.' (Source: em PRESS website)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • How many more are coming? : the short life of Jack Marsh by Max Bonnell

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.

    'This biography tells the compelling story of an athlete who achieved remarkable success in two sports. During a long career as a sprinter, Marsh became known as the fastest man in Australia. Taking up cricket late in life, he rose to the New South Wales squad within a few weeks and was soon regarded as the most threatening and inventive bowler of his generation.'

    'An illiterate boy, born in poverty, Marsh was a member of a people that was subjected to the harshest discrimination in its own homeland.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • No Free Kicks : Family, Community and Football : A Noongar Story by Eric Hayward

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.
    No Free Kicks: Family, Community and Football: A Noongar Story is based on a thesis presented as part of the requirements for the award of the Degree of Master of Arts, Indigenous Research and Development at the Curtin University of Technology, 2002. It details the experiences of the author and his family and includes an extensive history of involvement with Australian Rules Football using methodologies which seek, and value, Aboriginal perspectives on their involvement. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Big Artie : The Autobiography by Arthur Beetson with Ian Heads

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from on-line.

    'He was the greatest footballer that I have ever seen and the best forward the game ever saw. And he was such a bloody good bloke ... a man of his word. I can't believe he's gone. The game has lost a great friend and a great man. Tommy Raudonikis The sudden death of rugby league giant Arthur Beetson OAM on 31 November 2011 unleashed a wave of emotion rarely before experienced in a game that has been labelled the most demanding on the planet. Hard men cried that day, among them some of the toughest characters that Australian sport has ever produced.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Micky O : Determination. Hard Work. And a Little Bit of Magic by Michael O'Loughlin

    image of person or book cover
    From publisher website
    'When Michael O′Loughlin was drafted by the Sydney Swans at just 17 years of age, he was the no. 40 selection and the last player picked. Back then he could not have imagined the extraordinary future that awaited him: the numerous awards and accolades, the respect and admiration of fellow players, a huge number of personal supporters, and a record-breaking 303 games in the red and white.

    This is the inspiring story of Michael′s life from the childhood lessons of hard work and self-belief imparted to him by his mother, Muriel, to the discovery of the stunning sporting ability which would take him into the elite legions of AFL.
    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Mark Ella Joins Indigenous Times by the National Indigenous Times

    Mark Ella has joined the National Indigenous Times as a columnist. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    This article includes a portrait of Mark Ella.

  • Gary Ella : Program Manager, SOGOC Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Relations, Sydney by Gary Ella

    In this small biography Gary Ella notes that his job as Program Manager is to make sure there is Indigenous involvement in the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000. Ella notes in this work that 'in sport there's still not always a level playing field, but at least when people get on the field, they're there to compete on equal terms'. (Ella cited in Tweedie 2001:57-59)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • The Liam Jurrah Story: From Yuendumu to the MCG by Bruce Hearn Mackinnon

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from web.
    'Known as the 'Warlpiri Warrior,' the 'Jurrahcane' and 'Cougar,' Liam Jurrah is a rising star of the AFL, known for his startling displays of skill, artistry and the 'deadly' impact of his football ability. But despite Liam's prodigious talent, he is a relative newcomer to the AFL' (Trove record) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Cathy Her Own Story with Scott Gullan

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from web.

    '"I'm just a little black girl who can run fast, and here I am sitting in the Olympic stadium, with one hundred and twelve thousand people screaming my name. How the hell did I get here?"

    Few of us will forget Cathy Freeman's gold-winning run at the Sydney Olympic Games. With the expectations of a nation on her shoulders, her victory that night confirmed her as a national hero. But the win was more than just a sporting triumph. In that euphoric moment, Cathy Freeman symbolised our best and broadest vision of ourselves, a reconciled Australia.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • The Famous Erambie Allblacks by Larence Bamblett

    'The Erambie Allblacks represented a small Wiradjuri community few more than 100 people in central-western New South Wales. The Allblacks played their first game against the Cowra Pioneers in 1922 in a game that was full of thrills. The speed and tackling of the Aboriginal team was a revelation. Reports about the game were that the new team would be hard to beat. Newspapers reported that the team roused the spectators to a high pitch of enthusiasm with barracking not heard at the Cowra ground. ' (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Novels and Short Stories with Sports Themes

  • Hard Yards by Melissa Lucashenko

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of UQP

    'Roo Glover has two highly desirable talents - he can fight, and he can run like the clappers. In the inner-city's harsh code there are losers and survivors, and Roo's a survivor. He's made it through adoption, through juvenile detention, through poverty. He's an athlete in training, aching towards the dream of Olympic qualification. He's even coping with being white in the turbulent Aboriginal family of his girlfriend. But when cousin Stanley dies in custody, and Roo finds his father the same week, trouble starts to catch up with him.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Sweet Guy by Jarred Thomas

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.
    'If Michael Sweet thought his early teens were difficult he's in for a shock now he's eighteen and ready to start uni. The pressures of study making new friends and moving into a co-ed college are only the beginning. When Michael sets out to woo the girl of his dreams he gets more than he bargained for. It makes dealing with his drop-kick father and the antics of his madcap surfer mate Angus seem a breeze. But life is about to dish up some surprises that help Michael meet the challenges head on. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Poems with sports themes

  • The Complete Koori Footballer by Joashua Simpson

    First line of poem: "his footwork would be sheer brilliance"

  • The Grandest Final by Yvette Holt

    First line of poem: "As a little girl growing up I always wanted to play football"

  • Black Magic by Graeme Dixon

    First line of poem: "They spotted him one day"

  • At Home: To Musgrave Park People by Lionel Fogarty

    First line of poem: "Bludging no-hoper this dopey blackfella"

  • Into the Waves by George Watson

    First line of poem: "Into the waves"

  • The Rhythm in a Dorsal Fin by Peter Minter

    First line of poem: "Sunlight through broad blue april sky"

  • Theatre and film with Sporting Themes

  • The Chase by David Batty and Francis Jupurrula Kelly

    image of person or book cover
    Screen cap from The Chase

    'After an exhilarating win against the Yuendumu Magpies, four Mt Allen football players become stranded when the team bus leaves without them. To get back home, they ‘borrow’ the rival team coach’s car. An hilarious high-octane car chase ensues as the Bush Mechanics are enlisted to catch the culprits. The episode concludes with a spectacular act of revenge when the abandoned car is found.' (Source:creativespirits website)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Yolngu Boy written by Chris Annastassiades and directed by Stephen Johnson

    image of person or book cover
    Image sourced on-line

    'Caught in a collision between the modern world of rap, football, street cred and the oldest living culture on earth, Lorrpu, Botj and Milika are three teenagers who once shared a childhood dream of becoming great hunters together. But things have changed and their paths are diverging. The film is about the search for identity, making the journey from adolescence to adulthood and the implications of belonging to a larger social group, whether it be culture, a family or a group of friends'.

    Source : http://librariesaustralia.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Fitzroy Stars: More than a Game by John Harding

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from distributers website.

    The Fitzroy Stars was one of the first all Indigenous football clubs in the early 1970s. Many players went on to become leaders of the community and developed welfare and cultural organisations in Melbourne and across Victoria. After 14 years, the Fitzroy Stars football club has been resurrected and the old players reminisce on the importance of being a Fitzroy Star. It is more than game. (Source:Screen Australia website )

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Topo by Neil Cole

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from on-line

    'Enrique 'Topo' Rodriguez played Rugby Union for Australia in the 1984 Grand Slam tour of the United Kingdom. He retired from playing rugby in 1987 and became extremely ill with depressive episodes lasting continuously for eight years before he was diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder.

    'The play describes theatrically the 1984 tour, his coach Alan Jones and Mark Ella, an Aboriginal player who was happy to retire early at the end of the tour. On the other hand, Topo continued on with his career for several years.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    The play features Peter Hosking as Topo Rodriguez, Isaak Drandich as Mark Ella, Shane McNamara as Alan Jones and Billy McPherson in several roles.

  • Sport Themed Children Books

  • Marngrook: The Long Ago Story of Aussie Rules by Titta Seacombe and Grace Fielding

    Courtesy of Magabala Books
    This children's story focuses on a young boy called Jaara, whose father, Wawi makes a toy called a 'marngrook' for his son and the other children. The toy is made from the skin of a ring tailed possum, sewn with a tendon from a kangaroo tail and stuffed with emu feathers and moulded into the shape of an emu egg. Jaara and the other children play with the marngrook every day and spend hours practising their kicks. (Source Magabala Books website www.magabala.com, and Koori Mail 523:54) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Deadly D and Justice Jones: Making the Team by Scott Prince and Dave Hartley

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of Publisher website

    'Eleven-year-old Dylan has to move from Mt Isa to Brisbane and he’s not happy. But as soon as he gets to Flatwater State School he finds a former Mount Isa Miner’s footy supporter in his principal and a ‘Broncos tragic’ as a teacher. He also makes a friend in Justice Jones and an enemy in Jared Knutz. Dylan is cursed with an abnormality transforming him into a fully-grown man whenever he gets angry. Always a worry, the ‘curse’ proves to be a blessing in the city when his alter ego attracts the interest of the Broncos during a class excursion to watch the team train.

    (...more)
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  • Budborl Njarra-rawayaniba. We Played Football by William Nakabuy

    The Ndjebbana language is spoken by Gunavidji people, this small picture book is part of a language book series in the Ndjébbana (Kunibidji) language of Central coastal Arnhem Land, produced by Maningrida Community Education Centre, for the use in the Ndjébbana bilingual program.

  • Malu Kangaroo : How the First Children Learnt to Surf by Judith Morecroft and Bronwyn Bancroft

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from on-line.
    image of person or book cover
    This images has been sourced from Booktopia
    'Described by the author as a modern myth, Malu Kangaroo is a poignant story which tells of how people first learnt to surf. Malu Kangaroo, a kangaroo spirit, carves a piece of wood and takes it to some children playing on a beach. He floats it on the water and shows them how to use it. The children learn to balance and guide the board through the waves, "riding the high crests" and "flying before the crashing breakers". With beautiful, evocative text and vibrant, intricate illustrations by acclaimed indigenous artist Bronwyn Bancroft, Malu Kangaroo combines Dreamtime and contemporary imagery. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • An Indij Sport Report: The Preston Campbell Edition by Preston Campbell and illustrated by Wendy McDougall

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from web.

    'Get to know Preston, his family and the life of an elite rugby league footballer.' (Source: Publishers website)

    (...more)
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    Indij Readers has produced a collection of books, which can be used in the classroom for literacy acquisition, exploring Aboriginal culture and can assist with the implementation of Aboriginal perspectives across the Key Learning Areas of the curriculum. See Indij Readers website for more information.

  • Spirits of the Surfing World by Leigh Rowell

    Image courtesy of Black Ink Press

    'The story of a rather amazing boy who brings to reality his grandfather's dream of becoming a champion surfer. This is a story to show that anyone can do anything that they put their heart and mind to.' (Source: Black Ink Press website)

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Sporting Academics, Sport Themed Criticism, and Non-Fiction Works

  • The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe: A history of Aboriginal involvement with the World Game by John Maynard

    Courtesy of Magabala Books
    The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe is the untold story of Aboriginal involvement with the 'world game' in our nation's sporting history. The acceptance that Aboriginal players found within the post-World War II migrant communities had a profound impact on their lives... Interweaving personal stories and extensive research with links to the broader Indigenous world community, the book is a celebration of the extraordinary journey taken by Aboriginal sportsmen and women to forge the way ahead for the present talented players. (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Aborigines and the 'Sport of Kings': Indigenous Jockeys in Australian Racing History by John Maynard

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of Publisher website

    'Aborigines and the Sport of Kings celebrates the significant and exciting Aboriginal involvement in Australian racing history. A remarkable history considering That the Australian Aboriginal peoples first contact with the European animals caused them bewilderment and terror Because Massacres violent and unprovoked vicious attacks were Conducted from horseback. However, within a short period They adapted and shed Their fears. Over time They caught the horses and taught themeselves to ride, using sheets of bark as makeshift saddles.

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry
  • Black Gold: The Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame by Paul Tatz and Colin Tatz

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of Publisher website

    'In 1995, Professor Colin Tatz and a panel of sportspeople and historians selected 129 athletes for the inaugural Aboriginal and Islander Sports Hall of Fame. Since then, 43 new stars have been inducted. Black Gold features all 172 members, from 30 sports. The chapters showcase our Olympic heroes, superb sportswomen, football giants, boxing legends, lightning sprinters and more — from darts champions to world class weightlifters and woodchoppers.'

    'Some of the people in this book are members of the Stolen Generations who were raised in ‘assimilation’ homes but pursued their dreams against all odds.

    (...more)
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  • Organisations and Further Reading

  • NASCA - National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy

    NASCA was founded by Aborginal NRL player, David Liddiard in 1995, this organisation use role models, leadership figures and trained professionals to implement programs across Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders youth.

    There programs encourage school attendance and promotes self-confidence, it enables their participants to take pride in their histories and cultures to inspire lifestyle choices and meaningful career development. The organisation has a range of programs such as Careers & Aspirations, which is designed to expose students to a range of employment possibilities; ARMtour (Athletes as Role Models), a program that used athletes as role models to encourage youth in remote communities to stay in school, lead healthy lifestyles and make positive choices; Sporting Chance, this program uses sport and sports role models to encourage Indigenous youth to value education, stay in school and increase their post school opportunities. See NASCA for more information.

  • Indigenous Sporting Greats by Trish Albert

    image of person or book cover
    This image has been sourced from web.
    ' Indigenous Sporting Greats Sport is an Australian way of life. Through the actions and voices of Indigenous sportsmen and women, we learn about policies and attitudes in Australia towards Indigenous people. This book celebrates their sporting achievements and the contributions they have made in Australian life.' (Source: back cover) (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

    This work is part of the First Australians: Plenty Stories series which is collaboration between the National Museum of Australia and education book publisher Pearson Australia to provide primary classrooms with a comprehensive resource to successfully implement Australian Indigenous Studies.

    This resource has been developed to enable teachers to approach the teaching of Indigenous culture and issues with confidence.

  • Marngrook, Tom Wills and the Continuing Denial of Indigenous History : On the Origins of Australian Football by Jenny Hocking and Nell Reidy

    'The Indigenous game of marngrook and its claimed connection to Australian rules football has provoked unusually intense debate.1. Dismissed as ‘an emotional belief’, ‘falsifying history’, ‘lacking any intellectual credibility’—who could have imagined that the seemingly innocuous matter of an Indigenous game of football would meet with such invective. ...'

    (...more)
    See full AustLit entry

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