Sport brings together people from different backgrounds, abilities, cultures and beliefs.
That's something to celebrate.
Australia’s sporting history isn’t just filled with success on the field. What happens off the field is just as important. Australia’s sporting history is filled with inspirational stories of positive change and the fight to make fair play part of the Australian way of life.
Sport and human rights
1868 | First 'Australian' team competes
The first Australian sporting team to compete overseas is an All-Indigenous cricket squad. The team consists of 13 Aborigines from the Western District of Victoria and an English coach, and plays a total of 47 matches in 115 days in England.
1907 | Annette Kellerman
An icon of Australian women's swimming, Kellerman has a huge impact on the evolution of bathing costumes after being arrested on a Boston beach in 1907 for wearing a one-piece skirtless bathing suit. Convention at the time stipulated neck-to-knee woollen swimming costumes for women.
1957 | Sir George Bedbrook
Led Australia’s first ever international disability sport team to England for the Stoke Mandeville Games, the precursor to the Paralympic Games. The team consisted of seven athletes – six of whom were from Dr Bedbrook’s ward at the Royal Perth Hospital.
1968 | Lionel Rose
The first Indigenous Australian to win a professional world boxing title. After his victory, he was named Australian of the Year – the first Aboriginal person to receive the honour. He was one of the first sportsmen in the world to make a personal stand against apartheid in South Africa. In 1970, Rose rejected a financially lucrative and career boosting offer of a stadium fight in South Africa, as the visa requirements of his visit would have required him to be classified as an 'honorary white.'
1971-1972 | A stand against apartheid
The Australian Cricket Board cancels the planned tour of the all-white South African team, because of the apartheid policy. Sir Donald Bradman, Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, made a simple one-line statement: "We will not play them [South Africa] until they choose their team on a non-racist basis."
Rugby fans and demonstrators made their way onto the fields in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane during the Springboks' 6-week tour.
1981 | Blind cricket
The first blind and partially blind Australian cricket team toured Sri Lanka playing two tests and other matches. This began competitions between other teams around the world.
1993 | Neil "Nicky" Winmar
In response to racist taunts from spectators during the St Kilda and Collingwood match at Victoria Park, Nicky Winmar lifts his jumper to proudly showing the colour of his skin. The incident spurred the AFL to come down hard on racism, imposing heavy fines for offenders and their clubs.
Two years later, AFL player Michael Long lodges a formal complaint of racial abuse following an on field incident with Damian Monkhorst. In response, the AFL implements ‘Rule 30: A Rule to Combat Racial and Religious Vilification’. This rule has now filtered down to junior, suburban and regional Australian football competitions in all states, and has been replicated by other sporting codes.
1994 | Cathy Freeman
After winning the 200m sprint at the 1994 Commonwealth Games, Cathy Freeman caused controversy by carrying the Aboriginal flag as well as the Australian national flag during her victory lap. An official rule stated that only the national flag is meant to be displayed.
At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australian again proudly saw Cathy Freeman take her victory lap, carrying both the Aboriginal and Australian flags.
1995 | Ian Roberts
Ian Roberts became the first player in the history of Australian rugby league to come out publicly and announce that he is gay, during the latter years of his playing career. Following his announcement, The NRL Footy Show stars Paul Vautin, Peter Sterling, and Steve Roach appeared in a poster campaign against homophobia conducted by the Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project.
1996 | Louise Sauvage
Receives gold for winning the women’s 800m wheelchair demonstration event in front of 85,000 spectators at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. She went on to defend her Olympic Gold medal in front of 110,000 spectators at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
2001 | Indigenous cricket vs the Prime Minister
The first Prime Minister’s XI v ATSIC chairman’s XI cricket match was held. The match was held again in 2002 and 2003, before being abandoned following the Government’s decision to dismantle ATSIC in 2004.
2002 | Women's boxing
Boxing Australia introduced a senior women’s division to the Australian Championships. It took NSW until 2008 to lift the legal ban on competitive women’s boxing.
2003 | Pregnant netballer
Former Adelaide Ravens player Trudy Gardner was banned from playing while pregnant won her legal battle against discrimination. She was able to return to the court to play for national netball league side during her pregnancy.
2003 | Indigenous All-Stars in AFL
In 2003, a record crowd of 17 500 watched the Indigenous All-Stars (AFL) defeat the Carlton Football Club. Every two years, Darwin hosts a match between a national Indigenous football team and a top AFL team, in recognition of indigenous Australians’ contribution to the national AFL competition.
Since 2005 the AFL also hosts ‘Dreamtime at the G’, an annual AFL match between Essendon and Richmond to celebrate the contribution of all indigenous players to the AFL Essendon and Richmond were chosen to play in the match because their combined jumper colours – red, yellow and black – make up the colours of the Aboriginal Flag.
2006-2008 | Surf Life Saving
In the wake of the Cronulla Riots, Surf Living Saving Australia ran a two year program to recruit Muslim surf life savers, trained thousands in water safety, and designed specific burkini costumes for Muslim women to wear on patrol. The program was designed to be an important signal that Australians of Muslim background are welcome to volunteer as surf lifesavers and on the beach.
2010 | AFL for homosexuality
A number of top AFL players and coaches launched a campaign with the Players’ Association to promote tolerance of homosexuality. Almost 30 sportsmen and coaches were photographed holding handwritten signs calling for acceptance and understanding of homosexuals.
2010 | Indigenous All-Stars in NRL
The first NRL Indigenous All Stars match to celebrate the role of Indigenous League players is kicked off. The Indigenous All Stars featured 20 players of Aboriginal descent chosen by public votes who played the NRL All Stars. The NRL All Stars featured one player from each of the 16 NRL teams as well as the Australian and New Zealand captains and deputy captains.
Do you want to Play By The Rules?
Racism is two times more likely to occur during sport or at a public event, rather than when people interact with the police.