Relocation Stories: experiences of Indigenous Footballers in the AFL

Campbell, Emma E (2008) Relocation Stories: experiences of Indigenous Footballers in the AFL. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


Moving away from home to embark on a career at an elite level involves the individual within a broader social ecology where a range of factors influence the dynamic transition. In 2000, Indigenous and non-Indigenous past and present AFL footballers and AFL administrative staff suggested that relocation was one of the issues faced by Indigenous AFL footballers. The focus of the current study was to learn about relocation and settlement experiences from the perspectives of 10 Indigenous Australian AFL footballers, examining the social, cultural, organisational, and psychological challenges. Five participants were drafted to the AFL within 12 months, and five participants were drafted to the AFL prior to 2002. Participants were listed players from seven Victorian AFL clubs. Interviews were also conducted with eight representatives (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) from organisations associated with the AFL. Players were asked questions about their own relocation and settlement experiences. Secondary informants were asked questions about their involvement with Indigenous players relocating and their perception of the relocation process for Indigenous players in the AFL. Interviews were semi-structured and conversational in style and analysed for unique and recurring themes using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Each of the stories reflected subtle differences experienced during relocation, highlighting the importance and value of using a phenomenological and qualitative framework to understand each player’s perspective and experiences of relocation. The findings demonstrated both facilitative and barrier factors influencing the relocation, settlement, and adaptation experiences. These included opportunity and social mobility, social support and kindredness, culture shock, and racism and homogeneity. Each player’s story about relocation and subsequent settlement and adaptation, highlighted the importance of family, connection, and kindredness as an overarching theme. The findings emphasise the need for receiving environments, in this case the AFL, to treat every player on an individual basis rather than grouping them into a collective. It is essential that a player is understood in relation to his socio-cultural context. The AFL has implemented significant changes to welcome cultural diversity, but as a mainstream organisation, it has been developed within mainstream values. Just as society in general needs to acknowledge Australian history and the overall discrepancies between Indigenous and non-Indigenous opportunities and living standards, the AFL has to continue to de-institutionalise stereotypes and increase the cultural awareness of all groups to continue being a forerunner of progressive race relations. The current study represents an important initial step in the identification and description of the relocation processes from the vantage point of Indigenous footballers.

Additional Information

Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Doctor of Applied Psychology degree.

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 380000 Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Social Sciences and Psychology
Keywords Indigenous footballers, relocation, psychological aspects, Australian Football League
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