Australia's loss of sporting mojo has shaken its national identity

Sport is integral to the Australian psyche, and lacklustre results in marquee events such as the Ashes, the Lions tour and the Olympic Games have shaken the nation's sense of national identity, according to a cultural researcher at the University of Western Sydney.

Professor David Rowe from the UWS Institute for Culture and Society will explore the shifting status of Australian sport since the landmark 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at a public lecture at Parramatta Town Hall on September 12 at 5.30pm.

Professor David Rowe says sport's importance to Australia's national identity is illustrated in the official information booklet for the citizenship test, which states that "throughout our history, sport has both characterised the Australian people and united us".

"Many Australians are proud of their nation's sporting history, but it is also the source of continuing anxiety about still 'cutting the mustard'.  Current disappointments on the field of play and scandals off it have created the impression that Australian sport, and so the nation itself, is at a crossroads," Professor Rowe says.

"At the same time, the traditional, predominantly Anglo-Celtic face of the Australian sports fan is changing as the population becomes ever more culturally diverse. This means that the country now includes more locals supporting other sporting nations, or they may barrack for a range of teams which may or may not include Australia, depending on the occasion."

"This matter of nation and culture also involves gender.  Because sport is so male dominated, and male contact sports in turn dominate the sports media, what kind of image of Australian masculinity is presented to the world through sport? And where do women fit into the Australian sporting nation?" he asks.

Professor Rowe says 2013 has been a memorable year for sport, but not for reasons that would leave supporters with a warm, nostalgia-inducing glow.

"Sport has been beset with several celebrity scandals garnering global media coverage, including Lance Armstrong's televised confession of doping to Oprah Winfrey, and the shooting by Oscar Pistorius of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp," he says.

"Locally, the release of the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) Report Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport has been described as 'the blackest day in Australian sport', and there have been many other controversies, including the racial abuse of Indigenous footballer Adam Goodes, accusation of assaults of women by sportsmen, and cases of alcohol-related violence and other misbehaviour.  Most recently, an AFL player set a dwarf entertainer on fire during a Mad Monday celebration."

"Given the intense bond between sport and Australian culture, a crisis of sport is also to a degree a crisis of Australian national identity," Professor Rowe says.

Professor Rowe says the discussion of these subjects will encourage sociologically informed public debate on one of Australia's most cherished and flawed social institutions.

By submitting a comment you acknowledge you agree with the Terms and Conditions.