Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Gary Partington

Second Advisor

Dr Andrew Taggart


The purpose of this study was to describe the sense of self for a group of urban Western Australian Aboriginal children through analysing their perspectives and experiences in school sport and physical education. A symbolic interaction inquiry paradigm complemented with qualitative data collection methods was utilised. Informal conversational interviews and nonparticipant observations were employed. Interviews were conducted with participants and those whom they reported as their significant others. Participants were also observed in the school sport setting during physical education classes and intra and inter school sport competitions. Eight Western Australian Aboriginal children who resided in an urban suburb of Perth, Western Australia and attended a coeducational state school were the participants. Upper primary students, aged 11 to 12 years were included with an equal representation of both males and females. Data were analysed in accordance with Colaizzi’s (1978) procedure. Significant participant responses were extracted and meanings were identified in order to group the meanings into various themes. It was found that Aboriginal students mostly experienced positive interactions with others in the school sport setting. They demonstrated above average sport skills and were consistently rewarded with praise from their fellow peers and teachers. Aboriginal students did not enjoy physical education since it limited their participation, social interaction with others and their enjoyment. Team sports were preferred, but females reported that they disliked coeducational sport competition. Aboriginal students reported that participating in sport (particularly team sports) made them feel happy about themselves since it provided an opportunity for them to feel proud of identifying as an Aboriginal. Opportunities for equality and acceptance from others were more accessible in the school sport domain, since feedback for performances was constant and contained positive information. Feedback was often supplied immediately after a performance and was directed to the student concerned. For some though, sport participation could also result in students experiencing shame. This occurred when a mistake was performed or when significant "others" were present and observed their participation. In all, school sport provided the opportunities for Aboriginal students to develop positive and favourable self-perceptions, particularly with regard to their Aboriginal identity.