New Books Network

Roy Hay

Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the 19th Century

They Did Not Come From Nowhere

Cambridge Scholars Press 2019

New Books in Australian and New Zealand StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Sports July 29, 2019 Keith Rathbone

Today we are joined by Roy Hay, Honorary Fellow at Deakin University, and the author of Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the 19th...

Today we are joined by Roy Hay, Honorary Fellow at Deakin University, and the author of Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the 19th Century: They Did Not Come From Nowhere (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2019).  In our conversation, we discussed the origins of Australian Rules Football, indigenous competition in cricket and footy in the mid and late-19th century in rural Victoria, and the Marngrook debate.

In Aboriginal People and Australian Football in the 19th Century, Hay offers an extensively researched account of indigenous participation in Australian Rules Football from the origins of the game through the early twentieth century.  Using the newspaper archives available on the Trove database, Hay delves into the sports pages of local Victorian presses and recovers a wide range of Aboriginal athletes competing inside of the missions and in local and regional competitions across rural Victoria.  His work rediscovers Aboriginal excellence despite the typically negative depictions of indigenous Australians common in the colonial archives.

Hay’s work challenges the narrative of sports civilizing mission.  Instead, he creates a compelling story of widespread Aboriginal agency as indigenous athletes competed on their own terms despite systematic bias from the white sporting establishment, especially from the VFL/VFA that barred any competition between Melbournian and aboriginal teams.

Hay’s work will appeal to scholars interested in the role of sports in Australia or in the interplay between sports and colonial governments.  In a final chapter, Hay raises questions about the influence of Marngrook on the origins of Australian football that will be essential reading to scholars of Australian sport.

Keith Rathbone is a lecturer at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.  He researches twentieth-century French social and cultural history. His manuscript, entitled A Nation in Play: Physical Culture, the State, and Society during France’s Dark Years, 1932-1948, examines physical education and sports in order to better understand civic life under the dual authoritarian systems of the German Occupation and the Vichy Regime.  If you have a title to suggest for this podcast, please contact him at keith.rathbone@mq.edu.au.