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Bringing Indigenous perspectives to the Sport for Development field

: Research Team: Dr Farah Palmer (PI), Dr Rochelle Stewart-Withers (PI) and Dr Jeremy Hapeta (AI). Photo supplied

By centring Indigenous and feminist scholarship and aspirations, Dr Rochelle Stewart-Withers, (Te Āti Awa), Dr Farah Palmer (Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato) and Dr Jeremy Hapeta (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Huia) from Massey University will deconstruct, decolonise and transform the Sport for Development field


The field of Sport for Development adheres to the notion that sport has the power to change the world and that sport can be used to meet social policy, peace-making and social justice agendas and goals. Yet, despite over 20 years of theorising, research and practice, Indigenous worldviews are marginalised or absent in Sport for Development discourses. This is disturbing given that Indigenous people are often the target of deficit-focused initiatives while at the same time being excluded from decision making in the field.

Dr Rochelle Stewart Withers with pop up local vendor selling rugby league State of Origin handmade merchandise Port Morseby PNG

Dr Rochelle Stewart-Withers with pop-up local vendor selling rugby league State of Origin handmade merchandise - Port Morseby, PNG. Photo supplied.

In this Marsden Fund project, Dr Stewart-Withers Dr Palmer and Dr Hapeta will use Indigenous methodologies (Kaupapa Māori and Vanua Fiji frameworks) to conduct case studies in Aotearoa and Fiji to highlight Sport for Development initiatives that are informed by Indigenous viewpoints and align with Indigenous aspirations. The team aims for a grassroots-up development of theory through observations and interviews, hui and talanoa, with groups involved in rugby, outrigger canoeing and Iron Māori (triathlons). Alongside these narratives, they will also run an international survey to provide further data.

By transforming the field of Sport for Development, the team will make an original contribution to Indigenous and feminist scholarship, Sport for Development and sport management knowledge. They will create a space for new conversations and new opportunities for innovating concepts, methods and applications in the field.