TWENTY-NINE sporting bodies from across the south-west attended a forum at Warrnambool’s Lighthouse Theatre on Thursday as part of the state government’s ‘Change our Game’ initiative.
The forum, hosted by Dr Bridie O'Donnell, a former world champion cyclist, rower and the newly-appointed head of the state government’s office for Women in Sport and Recreation, focused on looking at ways in which the government and sporting bodies can encourage more women and girls to be involved in sport and recreation.
“This consultation with the community is about listening to what they have been doing well so far and how the office of women in sport and recreation can support them,” O’Donnell said.
The forum was recorded by O’Donnell and her team. The recordings will be used to compile a report that addresses the ways in which women and girls can be more actively encouraged to be involved in sport and recreation.
“The report will acknowledge everyone who has attended and thank them for their time, energy and contribution,” she said.
“It will summarise a lot of the themes around participation, leadership and places and spaces and how we can do better to improve the state of women’s sport in Victoria.
“It will provide a regional report on the current situation for women and girls and what our long-term strategies will be.
“If people of regional Victoria want things, we want to do our best to deliver them.”
O’Donnell said this was not just a regional problem.
“This isn't just a Warrnambool problem, it's one for all of Victoria to try and identify where the opportunities are to improve things, so that girls and women can be just like our men and boys in town and have the same opportunities and feel like they can make the same choices,” she said.
“Where we are seeing the gaps for the south-west region is actually similar to the whole of Victoria.
“It’s that middle ground to get women active and try to get them engaged and making sure that they feel safe and included and that the facilities and the environments are supportive for them.”
O’Donnell highlighted the benefits of improving sport for the south-west’s women and girls.
“The health benefits have been well documented in terms of improving health and well-being both mentally and physically,” she said.
“We know social benefits are really important to people who have participated in any type of activity that involves groups, such as sport.
“It teaches us about leadership, body image, strength, working with others, dealing with disappointment and all those life skills that actually go on to help us in our careers.”