AUSTRALIA’S patchy history on women and sport is best illustrated by the Federal Government’s response to a Senate inquiry report, About Time! Women in Sport and Recreation in Australia.
The report was released in September, 2006 with recommendations for urgent action to address accessibility, constraints to sports participation, the role of the media, pay rates for elite male and female athletes, the role of government and male and female leadership in sport.
It took the Federal Government six years – until October, 2012 – to respond.
Within that six years the Federal Government commissioned a report, Towards a Level Playing Field: Sport and Gender in Australian Media, which confirmed what was patently obvious – that sport involving women and girls and sport involving men and boys receive “starkly disproportionate amounts of coverage on Australian television”.
The 2009 report confirmed earlier evidence showing women’s sport often made up only 1-2 per cent of total sports coverage, with the average across all media of less than 10 per cent. Women’s sport routinely competed with coverage of horse racing.
The 2006 About Time! report explored barriers to Australia’s elite sportswomen, including abysmal remuneration, the lack of national competitions and media coverage, the lack of compensation for injuries, and the impact of having a child on a woman’s sporting career.
About Time! devoted attention to entrenched sexism within male-dominated sports media and how that was a barrier to the rise of female role models.
The various reports highlighted the need for leadership – male and female – within sporting organisations, corporations, media outlets and governments, to bring about change. They also highlighted areas where that leadership was showing results.
The sporting landscape is changing. On Wednesday night, with one dazzling flip, Australia’s latest football superstar Sam Kerr catapulted women’s soccer into the spotlight after she scored a skilful goal for the Matildas against Brazil.
Sam Kerr is a role model for girls and boys and the Matildas’ performances against Brazil were something we all celebrated. Today, the Hampden league netball season finishes and players’ triumphs will be widely cheered and celebrated. It’s taken years for Australia to get on board, and it’s about time.