Page 2408 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 2 August 2017

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Let me give one example of the lack of recognition and support for smaller and non-elite sports by the minister. Late last year, the parents of a number of female junior divers registered to attend the public school games in December this year. According to them, the ACT School Sport Council finance subcommittee made the decision that it would take between eight and 10 students to compete in order to minimise their financial risk. Financial risk? This is a group that is completely self-funded. They were willing to cover all costs to compete on behalf of the ACT themselves—highly motivated young girls and boys who trained hard all year, despite incredibly adverse circumstances because of the lack of appropriate facilities here in the ACT to support their sport.

Despite their ongoing requests in letters to the minister, they will not be going. But then, they are not elite—or not yet. And now they will not have the opportunity to be elite performers. There is no support—not for their facility, not for their attendance at a meet and not for their participation at the grassroots level. We call on this minister to get serious in her support for women’s sport, not just at the elite levels but also at the grassroots where it counts, for smaller sports as well as for the larger sports organisations, and to start actually making some inroads in delivering sporting facilities here in the ACT.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (5.31): The interesting part of this debate is to reflect on how far women’s sport has come in the last couple of years. It has been an exciting time for women’s sport in Australia generally, and that is flowing through to the grassroots across the country. A great example of that is the way the AFL women’s competition took off this year, and Ms Orr spoke about that at some length. We saw the inaugural season of the AFL women’s league, which was, of course, the first time women were able to play AFL professionally. Canberra hosted one game of the inaugural season, when the Giants took on the Western Bulldogs at Manuka Oval. It was a terrific match. I was really excited to see how many young girls were in the crowd that night; there were a lot more females generally in the crowd compared to an average AFL match at a regular season game.

What is particularly exciting is that the local AFL women’s competition has had a record number of participants this year following the success of the national women’s competition with a record ten teams in the competition this year. That underlines the important role elite sports can play in inspiring people to participate, and in this case helping girls to see that they can play AFL. I fear in the past that has been a barrier and that simply not having role models has been an issue.

Similarly, rugby league in the local region is working very hard. The Canberra Women’s Rugby League has made significant efforts recently to give women in Canberra an opportunity to play the sport. Canberra now has an open women’s tackle competition designed to create a pathway for talented league players to a higher level of representation. I attended the women in league round at Canberra Stadium on 22 July, and it was great to see recognition of the history of women’s rugby league in Canberra.

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