Contact Zones: Sport and Race in the Northern Territory, 1869-1953
Contact Zones traces the extraordinary journey taken by the Northern Territory’s non-White sportsmen and women from sporting exclusion and segregation to integration and liberation. In the Territory sport is hotly contested social and political terrain, a form of public theatre where issues of race and identity continually collide. Palmerston (renamed Darwin in 1911) was established in February 1869, and rather precariously marked colonial Australia’s northern frontier. Its enervating tropical climate, diverse but deeply divided cultures, frontier attitude and proximity to Asia gave it a distinctive character. In a society dominated by a tight-knit White minority sport was one of the few sites where its diverse communities could come together. Sport was, and remains, an active and powerful social agent and an important barometer of changing values. From 1869, to the end of the South Australian administration in 1911, sport was strictly segregated excluding Aborigines, Chinese and other non-Whites. Then, from World War I to 1953, sport, particularly Australian football, played an important role in transforming the Northern Territory into a more representative and inclusive society. For many sport was a means of challenging the status quo and asserting their rights in the face of entrenched racism. Success in sport was a potent counter-narrative, a declaration of resistance and developed a strong sense of community identity. At the heart of this history is the struggle for human rights and recognition.
Matthew Stephen is a historian with deep and abiding interest in sport and the role it plays in understanding society. This book is based upon his Charles Darwin University PhD thesis.
This book was shortlisted for the 2011 Chief Minister's Northern Territory History Book Award.
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