The research will retrace the introduction of the sport into the Papunya region of Central Australia and map changes in the way Papunya footballers have played the game from the 1960s, when bush scratch matches were first arranged with neighbouring Aboriginal communities, to the first decade of this century, when Papunya teams began to play in the highly structured and regulated Alice Springs-based CAFL. As a study of organisational engagement with cultural difference, our project will bring new insights to the business of Australian Football and how its formal organisational structures might handle cross-cultural relationships with Aboriginal peoples in ways that deliver improved outcomes for the sport and for the Aboriginal people who play and support the Australian game.
As people who have become perceived as outsiders, the law of the town has not been particularly kind to the young Aboriginal men who represent Papunya in the CAFL. Because many young and promising Papunya footballers are required to play in a place where Aboriginal culture and identity are subject to heightened levels of state and community surveillance and considered alien by a significant and vocal number of non-Aboriginal townspeople, it is perhaps unsurprising that they have become caught up in the bad things that happen to Aboriginal youth in Alice Springs.
In this context the organisation of Australian Football through the CAFL engages with Aboriginal communities in a search for 'raw' football talent to be extracted and sent to Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth--the epicentres of the sports powerbase--to undergo further development with the refined product ready for mass national consumption in the elite AFL competition.
The red earth oval that is the Papunya football ground is worlds away from the neatly manicured turf of Traeger Park, CAFL headquarters in Alice Springs, let alone the hallowed arena of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
If you are interested in participating in March for Parks, cafl
1-800-NAT-PARK, extension 222, to find the march nearest you.