Albanese Government pledges $200m for women’s sporting facilities

by Sophie Berrill
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women's sporting facilities

The Albanese Government has promised to spend $200 million on sporting facilities and equipment for women and girls following unprecedented support for the Matildas at FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The new ‘Play Our Way’ grants program will promote equal access, build more suitable facilities and support grassroots initiatives, according to a statement from the Government. It aims to get women and girls to engage, stay and participate in sport throughout their lives, following recent high-profile wins and an “extraordinary rise” in women’s participation in community sport in the past decade. 

“The Matildas, The Diamonds, The Wallaroos and our other world class teams have captured the nation’s hearts and changed Australian sport forever, and we must ensure this momentum ripples through generations,” the statement reads.

The program will be available for all sports but it is anticipated soccer, as the highest participation sport in Australia, will need significant resourcing in the wake of the Women’s World Cup.

“The Matildas have given us a moment of national inspiration; this is about seizing that opportunity for the next generation, investing in community sporting facilities for women and girls around Australia,” says Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

“We want women and girls everywhere in Australia to have the facilities and the support to choose a sport they love.”

The Matildas campaign for more than the Cup

The Government’s pledge appears to be a direct response to calls for better funding for women’s sporting facilities from the public, the opposition and professional sports women themselves. 

Speaking after Australia’s semi-final loss to England on Wednesday 16 August, the Matildas’ captain Sam Kerr took the opportunity to redirect the spotlight from her team’s record-breaking World Cup campaign onto women’s sport more broadly.

“I can only speak for the Matildas. We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots… We need funding everywhere,” Kerr said.

Uneven and “unacceptable” facilities

Nicole Kalms is the founding director of the Monash University XYX Lab, which leads national and international research in gender and place. She says the current uneven distribution of resources for male and female recreation is “unacceptable” in relation to sporting facilities. 

“Parks and sporting facilities are dominated by the wants, needs and desires of men and boys,” Kalms says. 

“Male-dominated recreational spaces (seen in the fact that facilities don’t cater for women’s needs and the ways that women’s teams are relegated to the worst times or spaces for training and matches) reproduce stereotypes. Without direct address and investment women are destined to be, at best, observers.” 

Anika Wells, the Federal Minister for Sport,  acknowledges similar hurdles for women and girls participating in sport in Australia.

“Too often women and girls are changing in men’s bathrooms, wearing hand-me-down boys uniforms, playing with men’s equipment on poor fields that boys teams wouldn’t train on,” she says.

The Play Our Way program

Play Our Way is set to help address these issues, allowing the next generation of female athletes to enjoy safer sporting facilities.

Local governments, community organisations, the not-for-profit sector and sporting organisations can seek funding for localised solutions and improvements through the program. 

The Government says an expert panel of women who have navigated community and professional sport – including Tal Karp, Lauren Jackson, Liz Ellis and Madison De Rozario – will help design Play Our Way to ensure funding produces the “most-needed facilities in the most-needed areas”.

Guidelines for Play Our Way grants are in development and it is expected applications will open by early 2024.

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