chapter  4
28 Pages

The 'Green' and the 'Gold': The Irish-Australians and their Role in the Emergence of the Australian Sports Culture

From the very moment the penal colonies in Australia were established, a culture of sport, dichotomized, 'classed' and 'gendered' began to evolve. The colonies immediately formed societies based upon power and position. On one side were the prisoners, the lower ranking garrison troops and ex-convicts (the aboriginal Australians were, of course, outside of all European society in the earliest times); and on the other were the officers, government officials, free-settlers and traders. The environment and climate encouraged recreation, and sporting activities offered distraction, recreation and even sustenance. The officers, once they acquired sufficient suitable stock assumed their equestrian pursuits whilst the lower echelons sought excitement in ways familiar to them, such as bare-knuckle prize-fights and various blood sports all of which were platforms for strenuous gambling and the enthusiastic consumption of alcohol. Troops played cricket and football, while swimming, or at least 'bathing', and fishing became popular with the lower classes. The better off took up yachting and the 'sport of kings', horse-racing.] Women in the settlement were subjected to absolute levels of marginalization consistent with the social norms and attitudes of the time. In the earliest years of Australia, sport was not a domain contested by women. 2 The history of Australian sport as a feature of popular cultural activity was and remains a central component of the overall cultural struggle.