REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real AustraliaL Where are sport's female leaders?

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from ACM, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Ballarat Courier journalist Melanie Whelan.

CREATING CHANGE: Basketball great Lauren Jackson speaks on driving gender equity in sport for women and girls conference at the National Convetion Centre in Canberra last month. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

CREATING CHANGE: Basketball great Lauren Jackson speaks on driving gender equity in sport for women and girls conference at the National Convetion Centre in Canberra last month. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Where are sport's female leaders? This is a question the nation's most decorated basketballer Lauren Jackson was asking when embarking on an Australian Institute of Sport program aiming to boost women's leadership in sport.

We do not have the answer in here Ballarat but we too, have made a promising start to change this at the grassroots and to get more women at the table.

Our council has made the first steps in an active women's leadership network as a safe forum for women to find support in each other and start tackling the key barriers preventing more women to get involved in our games.

Women and girls have overwhelmingly told VicHealth, Victoria's state health promotion body, they have a fear of being judged: the sniggers you hear as you jiggle and wobbly walking up the street; looking red faced, sweaty and un-co among the "perfects" in the gym; feeling like you're letting the team down even though you are trying your best.

INSPIRATION: Ballarat's Deb Clark overcame her fear of judgement to start walking for her health and to do a handstand for her daughter. She proudly shared her story for VicHealth's This Girl Can campaign.

INSPIRATION: Ballarat's Deb Clark overcame her fear of judgement to start walking for her health and to do a handstand for her daughter. She proudly shared her story for VicHealth's This Girl Can campaign.

The boom in women's sport is helping kick these stereotypes but we still need more female leaders in our games with the confidence and skills to hold their ground, stronger and more fierce than Tayla Harris with gloves on (or off, if it's football season).

A big part of what came out in the first Ballarat forum was how to we achieve gender equality without being tokenistic? And, if we are to be truly about equality, we need to be ensuring women from different cultures and socio-economic demographics and abilities come into play.

This is a wicked problem rearing its head in so many aspects of society.

Could a solution simply lie in giving women a chance?

Grassroots Australian Rules football club Redan has been making a bold move to advertise an opportunity for females to put up their hands and join the Lions' senior coaching panel.

Lions president Garry Goyne told The Courier while the door had never been closed to the possibility, at the same it had never been promoted. This was about being blatant in putting an opportunity out there.

Stepping up takes courage and that is where leadership at all levels is vital.

In the AFLW, St Kilda is the only club with a female head coach in Peta Searle. Do we really need to take a lead from the top?

Grassroots sports drives the conversation in regional Australia. One firm answer coming from Ballarat is how we need to start by celebrating each others' achievements more - and that doesn't sound so wicked.

Melanie Whelan

Journalist, Ballarat Courier

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