Australian Sport Thesaurus online as an open data resource

The Australian Sports Commission has made available the Australian Sport Thesaurus in xml format as an open data initiative to assist the sporting community.  


(The Thesaurus is hosted by, a site “to encourage public access to and reuse of public data”.)

The Thesaurus is an accumulation of over 15,000 terms covering concepts and objects related to sport and sporting organisations with a strong emphasis on Australian sport. It aims to reduce ambiguity in sporting terminology by providing authorised terms for every sport and sporting activity.

The Australian Sports Thesaurus seeks to provide clarity and assistance to the sport community by:

  • ensuring consistency of understanding and usage of sport terminology in documentary, legal and commercial discussions;
  • enabling improved system and database interoperability and reporting;
  • facilitating search and retrieval of information from sport information systems;
  • facilitating the defining of sport data for Data Dictionaries.

This is an evolving project and not all definitions have been verified and the Australian Sports Commission is seeking input from the sporting community to improve this product. While at this stage it is called a Thesaurus, in the longer term it is hoped that the product becomes a sports metadata register for the purpose of creating data standards for data exchange and interoperability.

The Thesaurus is provided on a Creative Commons Licence (CC BY-SA 3.0 AU) that allows all users to copy and use the resource so that they may integrate or adapt the terminology into their own organisations and systems.

Edgar Crook, Assistant Director, IT Governance and Compliance, Office of the CIO Digital Information Management & Technology at the Sports Commission is the point of contact for enquiries about this exciting open data initiative.

Photo Credits

AIS Swim Hall, Bruce, ACT, under construction (1982) (ArchivesACT, CC BY-NC 2.0)

No limits (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

Share, Exchange, (Re)Create

One of my colleagues at the University of Canberra, Peter Copeman, has introduced me to the concept of Ganma from the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land.


describes a situation in which a river of water from the sea (western knowledge) and a river of water from the land (Aboriginal knowledge) mutually engulf each other upon flowing into a common lagoon and becoming one. (Timothy Pyrch & Maria Castillo, 2001:380)

As the waters mix, “foam is created at the surface so that lines of foam mark the process of Ganma … the foam represents a new kind of knowledge”. In this sense of the word, “Ganma is a place where knowledge is (re)created”. (Timothy Pyrch & Maria Castillo, 2001:380)

Dr Marika, a Yolngu leader has observed:

Water like knowledge has memory. When two different waters meet to create Ganma, they diffuse into each other, but they do not forget who they are or where they come from.

In October, I am participating in a Knowledge Exchange conference in Dublin (HPX 2017). To my delight Waterville is to the south west of the conference venue … and the National Acquatic Centre is not far away. The hosts, the Institute of Sport, have since 2013 sought to:

to create and stage compelling knowledge exchange events in order to create a debate on current concepts of world class practice while building relationships in order to enhance multi-disciplinary teamwork in the field.

Conference presenters in 2017 are coming from all over the world to exchange and share.

Two posts this week have connected Arnhem Land and Dublin for me.

The first is by Leigh Blackall. He discussed a decision to install a new content management system (CMS) in his university. His post starts with this observation:

the process for selecting that new CMS was appalling, and the process for implementing it has been just as disappointing. Through the now typical pseudo-consultation events of cafe-style workshops where people with varying levels of ability and experience gather around butchers’ paper, getting a “facilitated” 5 minutes in a noisy room to try to channel through a scribe any competing idea into coherent hand written sentences, that are then randomly selected to create single keywords to stick on a wall, all in some strange gesture toward crowd sourced, sticky-note wisdom.

He concludes with this summary:

What I’ve witnessed in the new CMS is a massive refocusing on a single point, at the expense of all other concerns to do with teaching and learning. Many new people have been employed centrally, overwhelmingly configured to develop that managerial dashboard. This redistribution of resources ultimately comes at the expense of teachers badly in need of employment certainty and more agency in what they do – the time to understand what they’re doing.

All of which brought me to reflect on how organisations can be like water with a sensitivity to difference and an understanding of what can be co- and re-created.

The second post was titled The New Class of Digital Leaders. In it Pierre Peladeau, Mathias Herzog, and Olaf Acker discuss how organisations are addressing digital transformation. They point out:

When it comes to implementing a digital strategy, the new class of chief digital officers (CDOs) often encounter several key obstacles upon assuming their role: ad hoc digital initiatives spread throughout a large organization, lacking central oversight; a traditional culture that resists change; a gap in the talent required; and legacy systems and structures that threaten to derail their ambitions.

The Ganma concept has a great deal to offer these organisations as an epistemological foundation for engaging with the meeting of different experiences. It provides a fascinating opportunity for an ecological balance in leading and following in organisations that can aspire to share, exchange and re-create.

Photo Credits

Rock painting Near 7 Spears (C Steele, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Desmond, Arnhem Land (Rusty Stewart, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

What comes after disruption?

I have spent the morning reflecting on Wayne Goldsmith’s Facebook post about the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

The introduction to his post includes this observation:

It’s breaking my heart – and I am outside the Australian system these days – I can’t imagine what it must be like to actually work there.

I empathise with Wayne’s sentiments.

I was fortunate to be at the AIS for five years. I came to Australia in 2002 to be part of a vibrant culture that had so impressed me at the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000.

I do think the Sydney Games disrupted world sport and in doing so placed the Australian high performance system at peril. The triumph for Great Britain at the London Games in 2012 is one example of the disruption being amplified beyond Australia. I think too that the flourishing of Japan and New Zealand among other Olympic nations is part of this process.

Australia’s high water mark in 2000 set a level for other nations. It demonstrated that a commitment to a daily training environment guided by coaches and supported by passionate service providers was scaleable in any country committed to an ethical high performance system (and to those who were not).

Australia had to deal with internal forces of disruption too. Applied sport scientists became targets for increasingly well-funded football codes (particularly rugby league and Australian rules football). Each professional club became a micro institute of sport emboldened by the AIS model.

I believe it was profoundly difficult to address the disruption caused by Sydney 2000 in a federal political structure without a commitment to long term funding for sport. The entrepreneurial spirit that had characterised the AIS in the 1990s appeared to be more constrained by the political climate in the decade after the Games. 

The constraints upon the AIS coincided with professional sport in Australia exploring innovation. These codes were able to manage risk (and face the consequences) rather than avoid it.

Wayne has a ten point action plan for a relevant and resurgent AIS. His point 6 relates to coaching and the role a national coaching institute might play. I see this as a bottom up approach vital to Australia having a values-based sport system.

I do think this is a time of a whole of sport response to why we lay claim to sport being a central life interest for Australians. Our future is more about people than it is about facilities.

I do believe that we have an immense task ahead of us to re-embed daily physical activity in our culture. Teachers and coaches in the community are for me the synapse that allows us to think globally and act locally.

The next decade is a time when a humble Australian sport system might re-invent itself. We might learn from, rather than copy, others whom we have disrupted.

More than ever, we need to persuade young people that sport can be a life interest nourished by a process of learning rather than an economic investment in medal outcomes that loses the soul of personal engagement.

Wayne’s post and my experience at a local school yesterday prompt me to think we can do better by being ourselves.

At the school, it was the last day of term. The whole school (130 pupils) was out in the playground … skipping. It was a torrent of activity and laughter. Year 6s cared for Kindergarten children, boys and girls played together effortlessly. I was delighted that my granddaughter, Ivy, was right amongst it.

I am naive enough to think that care is at the core of the renewal of Australian sport. Our point of difference could be our cultural diversity.

A values based sport system lets go of outcomes, I believe. The outcomes will take care of themselves because in not aspiring to be the best sport system in the world, we can be through our efforts.

I am profoundly grateful to Wayne for enabling me to reflect on my experiences. I love the idea that we can flourish by de-emphasisng facilities and emphasising our people.

Photo Credits

Mongarlowe (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)

St Bede’s (School web site)