Popular assumptions have been made about the nature of Aboriginal involvement in modern sports which has not been extensively examined by sociologists and historians to date. These assumptions have included the belief in upward social mobility and the notion that inclusion was evidence of an egalitarian society. This study challenged these myths and contended that Aboriginal involvement in sport did threaten dominant values of an Australian colonial society which imposed a culture-change process upon Aborigines. Therefore, Aboriginal involvement was perceived in terms of racial stereotypes, that deemed them immutably inferior and which justified processes of exclusion and exploitation.
In order to understand this complex pattern of interaction, this study examined the involvement of Aborigines in cricket and pedestrianism in Australia from 1880 to 1910. This was a period of enforced enclosure of Aborigines, and therefore, the analysis was problematic and linked to a conflictual model of race relations. Their involvement was associated with patterns of dominance which worked within an ideology of racism. This was propped up by notions of respectability and European ethnocentricism, which facilitated a coercive co-operation by Aborigines participating in a particular sport. However, by the very nature of this involvement, a struggle existed whereby Aborigines adapted to the content and style of the sport which, being so successful at times, prompted actions of exclusion by the dominant group.
Evidence showed that in cricket, Europeans perceived the game as having a civilising influence which supported the aims of enforced culture-change by missionaries and governments. Pedestrianism proved to exert other forms of control via the exploitation and manipulation of Aborigines by promoters of the sport. However, in both sports, Aboriginal prowess existed, and the response by white administrators was to ultimately exclude them on the grounds that their 'pariah' status was a threat to society.
Therefore, this study revealed the patterns of dominance, coercion and resistance which were characteristic of Australian colonialism at that time.