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Gender equality is an important theme in Pikinini Plei Plei / Credit: Aaron Kearney and Pacific Sports Partnerships
Sydney Olympics torch relay through Oceania 2000
2008 Australian ‘Olympic Army’
Pacific Sports Partnerships 2009
2015 Sport as enabler of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Australian Sports Diplomacy Strategy 2015-18 2015
2016 Asian Sports Partnerships
Sports Diplomacy 2030 2019
2019 PacificAus Sports
Team Up 2021
2021 Sport Exchange Australia

Sydney Olympics torch relay through Oceania


Sydney 2000 and the torch that told a story

At every Olympics since the Berlin Games of 1936, the Olympic flame has been lit at the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, and carried by hand to its destination in the host country. Over the years, the flame has largely travelled by road, but it has at times been taken on boats, on horseback, under water, and even into space.

In the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the flame went on a journey that would tell the world about Australia’s place in Oceania, and about the rich and diverse cultures of Australia’s neighbours in the region. It travelled through 12 countries and territories: Guam, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Samoa, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and New Zealand. 

From Auckland, the flame travelled directly to Uluru where it was passed into the hands of Mutitjulu community elders. Gold medallist Nova Peris-Kneebone ran the first leg of the relay barefoot before passing the torch to tennis champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley. The nine-kilometre circuit around the base of Uluru was completed by members of the Mutitjulu community, the traditional owners of the land.

Wendy Craig-Duncan, a marine-biologist on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, carries the Sydney Olympic torch underwater at Agincourt Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. Credit: Steve Nutt/ALLSPORT via Getty Images.
Nova Peris-Kneebone poses with the Olympic flame in front of Uluru in Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia. Credit: Nick Wilson/ALLSPORT via Getty Images.

Nova Peris-Kneebone with torch at Uluru

Australian ‘Olympic Army’


Volunteers: the legacy of the Sydney Olympics

Alongside medal tallies and new Olympic records, one of the most talked about aspects of the Sydney Olympics was the extraordinary number of well-organised local volunteers who helped drive the success of the Games. Just short of 47,000 Australians were involved. Together with those who volunteered for the Sydney Paralympics later that year, they are remembered in a public art installation in Sydney Olympic Park where over 74,000 names are inscribed on over 300 poles.

Some of those volunteers also fronted up to support the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as part of a cohort of foreign volunteers recruited by the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. These included students from Newcastle University who worked in the Games’ media centre. Australians with experience from the Sydney Olympics were also involved in other aspects of the games including architecture and design, manufacturing, engineering, event management, logistics and media.

Volunteers from the Sydney Olympics gather as part of celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the Games at Sydney Olympic Park. Credit: Matt King/Getty Images for the AOC.

A volunteer walks over the Olympic rings at Sydney Olympic Park five days before the opening ceremony. Credit: Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images.

Volunteer at Sydney Olympic Games

Pacific Sports Partnerships


Building Australia’s flagship sport for development program

For more than a decade, the Australian Government supported sports organisations throughout Australia and the Pacific to run activities that would help address issues of health and social inclusiveness.   

Originally under the management of the Australian Sports Commission (now Sport Australia), and later overseen by managing contractor GHD, the Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP) program was Australia’s flagship sport for development program. Funding of AUD $39 million between 2009 and 2020 supported the delivery of activities representing 15 sports across nine countries. 

The program was successful at increasing participation in sport, particularly among girls. It also significantly improved the capacity of paid and volunteer staff right across the regional sports community.

Credit: Aaron Kearney, ABC International Development

Female Pacific cricket palyers

Sport as enabler of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development


Recognising how sport contributes to peace and progress

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, outlining a plan for global development that would “build a better future for all people”  in the years ahead. Significantly, the 2030 Agenda replaced the old Millennium Development Goals with the new Sustainable Development Goals, and identified sport as an enabler of social progress and sustainable development around the globe.

“We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contributions it makes to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.” (UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development)

Partners at the Ministry of Health Justice and Sports work with the community Volunteer Sport Committees to plan and organise sport based activities that encourage community participation. Credit: Little by Little Productions for AusAID
Smash Down Barriers program in Fiji. Credit ITTF – Oceania, Fiji Table Tennis Association; Aaron Kearney, ABC International Development. 

Trainer working with disabled table tennis player

Australian Sports Diplomacy Strategy 2015-18


Bringing out the best in each other

Led by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), together with Austrade, the Office for Sport, Tourism Australia and the Australian Sports Commission, the Australian Government formalised its commitment to sports diplomacy with the release of the Australian Sports Diplomacy Strategy 2015-18.

The strategy acknowledged the power of sport to deepen connections between people and institutions in our region and around the world, and to promote better health and social inclusiveness across the globe. It also recognised that Australia’s commitment to sports diplomacy could help strengthen innovation and integrity in the sport sector, as well as showcasing Australia’s skills, accomplishments and character to an international audience. 

Two sport for development programs were delivered under the strategy: one in the Pacific and the other in Asia. The participation of more than 1.5 million people in sporting activities funded under those two programs helped address inequalities experienced by women, girls and people living with disability. 

Ten sports fellowships were awarded, improving the capacity of individuals and institutions to deliver quality grassroots sport in Asia-Pacific. Additionally, a pilot was run for an initiative that connected skilled Australian volunteers with regional sporting organisations to support media and communications, disability and health outcomes.

Credit: Pacific Sports Partnerships and Aaron Keaney, ABC International Development


Volleyball in action

Asian Sports Partnerships


Building relationships in Asia, through sport

Australia’s sport for development activity expanded into Asia with the launch of the Asian Sports Partnerships (ASP) program and expanded Australia's sport for development co-operation across Asia. Building on existing sports-based partnerships from the Pacific Sports Partnerships program, the activities funded by ASP stretched across 16 sports and 18 countries.

The goal of the program was to make a positive contribution to development and public diplomacy outcomes in Asia by helping to improve health-related behaviours, supporting more inclusive sports participation and encouraging social cohesion in post-conflict environments.

Asian Sports Partnerships. Credit: DFAT

Disabled Afghani athletes with raised hands

Sports Diplomacy 2030


Connecting people and communities

The Australian Government set in motion a new era of international sporting engagement with the release of its Australian Sports Diplomacy Strategy 2015-18. The success and lessons of programs funded under the strategy informed the development of a new strategy, Sports Diplomacy 2030, released in 2019.

The renewed strategy prioritises four main objectives: empowering Australian athletes and sports codes to represent Australia globally; encouraging Australian sports codes to build links with regional neighbours; maximising the tourism and investment opportunities from sport; and using sport to strengthen communities in the Indo-Pacific.

Westfield Junior Matildas 2019 Pacific Tour. Credit: Joseph Mayers.

Kumuls v Australia at the Rugby League World Cup 9s. Credit: NRL Photos.

​​​​​​​Kumuls v Australia

PacificAus Sports


One homeground for Australia and the Pacific

In 2018, the Australian Government renewed its commitment to Australia’s Pacific family with the launch of the Pacific Step-up. Through the Pacific Step-up, Australia is working in partnership with Pacific nations to develop our regional capabilities in sport, education, media and church cooperation. 

PacificAus Sports is a flagship initiative of both Sports Diplomacy 2030 and the Pacific Step-up. Across netball, rugby league, rugby union and football, PacificAus Sports is making it possible for Pacific and Australian athletes to train and play together at the highest level, and for coaches, administrators and support staff across the region to access world-class professional development.

The program is also focused on creating more opportunities for Pacific women and girls to take their place as champions in the regional sports community. PacificAus Sports will increase access to world-class coaching, mentoring and competition for Pacific women and girls, and support the professional development of female sports coaches, administrators and support staff across the region.

Training with the Tonga national team. Credit: Netball Australia. 
Kumuls v Australia at the Rugby League World Cup 9s. Credit: NRL Photos.

Kumuls v Australia

Team Up


Transforming lives through sport

Australia has supported a variety of sport for development programs since the launch of the Pacific Sports Partnerships program in 2009. Their successful impact has led to the development and launch of Team Up, a sport for development program delivered through partnerships with sport and development organisations across Asia-Pacific.

Working with more than 60 partners across 13 sports, Team Up recognises that sport can help people realise their full potential. Programs focusing on gender, disability, leadership, governance and knowledge-sharing contribute to Team Up’s ultimate objectives of increasing participation among women, girls and people with a disability, as well as men and boys; supporting sport organisations to be safe, inclusive and accessible; and building closer, stronger and more collaborative relationships between Australia and its Asia-Pacific partners.

Credit: Oceania Rugby
Credit: Aaron Kearney, ABC International Development

Sisifa Filki holding a ball

Sport Exchange Australia


Sharing experiences and opportunities with the world

Sport Exchange Australia is responsible for implementing the government’s Sports Diplomacy 2030 strategy. In partnership with leading sport organisations, academic institutions and the newly formed Sports Diplomacy Advisory Council, it oversees a range of programs and activities including the high-performance program PacificAus Sports and the sport for development program Team Up.

Basketball for Good Women's Game in PNG. Credit: Pacific Sports Partnerships and Basketball Federation Papua New Guinea.

Australian cyclists Olivia Gollan and Michael Milton at the inaugural Tour de New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. Credit: Australian Olympic Committee.

Olivia Gollan and Michael Milton in Papua New Guinea
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