Young people playing AFL 

A love of sport can be found in people of different races, backgrounds and cultures. Yet this shared interest can raise a number of complex issues that involve balancing a person’s cultural traditions with their compliance with social norms and club rules and procedures. 

Information to help you understand the issue:

  • Australia is a culturally diverse nation in which people from more than 200 different countries live, work and study.
  • People from multi-cultural backgrounds have a significantly lower level of club participation than those from English speaking cultures.
  • The structure of Australian club sport is unique and it may take time for people from other cultures to understand our sporting system, practices and expectations (e.g., arriving at practice on time, questioning the umpire’s decision).
  • Each sporting club determines its own culture, which means it has the opportunity to be flexible and supportive of people from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Tips for the inclusion of culturally and linguistically diverse communities in sport

These tips are designed for coaches conducting sport and recreation sessions with people from migrant, new arrival and refugee backgrounds.

People from migrant and refugee backgrounds are often enthusiastic about sport and recreation, and they enjoy the opportunity to participate in a supported and structured environment. The following information is designed to provide information to coaches, trainers and volunteers delivering sport and recreation programs for people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.

While this resource is specially directed towards people from migrant and refugee backgrounds the strategies that we have suggested apply to any group and are an integral part of general coaching practices.

Communicating cross culturally

Key points to consider when communicating with others whose English language skills are limited:


  • avoid jargon and slang 
  • use an interpreter to assist in communicating your message 
  • explain technical terms 
  • keep language simple and use short sentences 
  • remember that you are engaged in a dialogue rather than just needing to get your message across 
  • make it visual if you can 
  • check to see that the message has been understood - ask questions and be patient 
  • listen attentively 
  • recognise diverse communication styles and meanings 
  • remember that many languages are structured differently to English and some English terms will not have a direct translation 
  • use direct questions - for example,  'Have you finished signing that form?' rather than, 'You haven’t finished that form yet have you?'. 


  • shout 
  • mumble 
  • show impatience 
  • speak really slowly 
  • replicate the participant’s accent.

The law

Although it is unlawful in most states and territories to discriminate against a person on the basis of their race, ethnic or ethno-religious background, some laws permit discrimination in sport (e.g., clubs can be established to meet the needs of particular cultures).  You need to check the law in your state/territory to see if any exceptions/exemptions apply.

Further resources