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Section 2: Maximising use

To build the capacity of sport and active recreation clubs and centres, there is a need to recruit and sustain more women and girls and to consider their needs to maximise usage.

For example to encourage lifelong participation females are influenced by different factors in sport and physical activity depending on their life stage. The scheduling of programs to cater for women and girls' needs is essential for recognising gender equity, and there is a need to provide diverse, social and informal programs.

The following themes were recognised during the Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation consultation process and form the basis for the guidelines prepared on maximising the use of community sport and active recreation clubs and centres in Victoria:

  • female life stages
  • equal scheduling
  • diverse programs
  • role modelling
  • promotion
  • integrated clubs.
Women and men playing tennis

Addressing the needs of women and girls throughout their life

The drivers and barriers to participation for women and girls change throughout their lives. Research continues to show the need for providers to implement programs that incorporate factors according to the life stage of females. Life stages include girls, adolescents, women, mothers, older women and
females of all ages.

Factors for girls and adolescents could include fun and parental support, for women flexible schedules, mothers’ group activities with their children and for all women role models and inclusive attire.

Influencing factors on female motivations, barriers, program design and promotion by life stage are addressed in Figure 1 below:

Female Participation in Sport – A snapshot of the evidence (PDF 358.5 KB) PDF icon

Diverse programs

Offering diversity in programs and activities is important to capture female target markets. VicHealth has identified the need for the sport sector to provide less structured forms of sport and physical activity to attract new female participants or re-engage those who may have become sedentary or inactive.

Case Study: VicHealth - Changing the Game: Increasing Female Participation in Sport

To get more Victorians physically active, VicHealth focuses on making physical activity and participation part of everyday living, active recreation and organised sport.

Current trends in sport and physical activity are shifting. With a growth in non-organised participation compared to traditional club based sport and an increasing number of females participating, evidence shows that the needs of females should be further considered when developing specific physical activity opportunities.

VicHealth’s Changing the Game: Increasing Female Participation in Sport program is designed to get 25,000 women and girls across Victoria physically active and to raise the profile and coverage of women’s sport in the media. Under the $1.9 million, 2.5 year program, VicHealth has partnered with six sports to encourage women and girls who don’t normally participate in traditional sports programs. The sports include AFL Victoria in partnership with AFL, Cycling Victoria, Gymnastics Victoria, Netball Victoria, Surfing Victoria and Tennis Victoria in partnership with Tennis Australia.

The programs offered by these sports are alternatives to traditional sporting competitions and provide a less structured and more enjoyable alternative to game play. For example, a social group fitness session, having fun in the water, activities in the park, accessing an online resource to support strength, flexibility and mobility, and making up your own rules to participate.

After six months of program delivery, participation numbers suggest that this initiative has succeeded in providing environments where activities are welcoming and social.

VicHealth graphic on percentage of those who choose non organised physical activity (44%) over organised (9%).
VicHealth graphic on percentage of those who choose non organised physical activity (44%) over organised (9%).

Did you know?

The cost involved in regularly participating in sport and physical recreation was frequently identified throughout global sporting literature as a major barrier for female participation.

The following recommendations were made by VicHealth to assist in creating equality in activity programming:

  • provide programs and sports with modified rules to eliminate participation barriers for women and girls
  • develop strategies that better link modified sport programs to community non-structured participation
  • offer participants the option to ‘Pay as you Go’
  • offer social competitions without the need for weekly commitment and strict training schedules
  • design programs that build participant skill and boost confidence
  • offer various options for uniforms where they are required. In social sports or activities offer relaxed comfortable clothing focusing on colour rather than style
  • involve female participants in the development of programs and activities
  • develop non-competitive programs focused on fun, friends and fitness to maximise continuous female participation
  • consider the barriers and motivations of females by life stage when developing or implementing a program or activity.  This includes cultural considerations such as religion, language barriers and background of staff.

Case Study: North Melbourne Community Centre Women's Only Program

North Melbourne Community Centre managed by YMCA Victoria, identified a lack of suitable physical activity programs, in particular for local Muslim women and girls, and as a result developed a Women’s Only Program strategy. Consultations occurred with the City of Melbourne, local women and young female gym members with a passion for health and wellness. This process resulted in the introduction of female only exercise sessions and the selection of a young female gym member of Somali background to undertake training in fitness. The City of Melbourne funded this training and the young woman completed a Certificate III & IV in Fitness.

Since this time an increase of females are attending programs. The centre has added an additional female class per week to cater for the increasing participant numbers. The program attracts community members from a wide variety of backgrounds such as Muslim, Caucasian, Chinese and Aboriginal.

North Melbourne Community Centre has had significant success in increasing participation of women and girls since employing the female gym instructor and introducing suitable exercise programs for women at the community centre.  The findings from a customer survey resulted in North Melbourne Community Centre further accommodating the need of their female users by providing four female only gym sessions per week, in a closed comfortable environment.

North Melbourne Community Centre's Women Only gym sessions promotional flyers

Survey findings also showed that childcare is a significant barrier for mothers to participate in classes.  Strategies will also be introduced to increase participation by teenage girls. YMCA Victoria is initiating new partnerships and looking at ways to provide additional female friendly programs and childminding services to reduce participation barriers.

The Women’s Only Program strategy has resulted in a significant increase in female participation at the North Melbourne Community Centre. In July 2015, female health club memberships represented 31 per cent of total gym memberships (male membership 69 per cent), it has now increased to 48 per cent female. A key success to increasing the participation of local Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) females has been the employment of a bi-lingual female gym instructor.

After the success of the women’s only exercise programs, YMCA Victoria hopes to expand the program further.

Case Study: Netball Victoria 'Rock Up Netball'

Netball Victoria recently developed the Rock Up Netball program as part of the VicHealth funded initiative, ‘Changing the Game’.

It offers pay-as-you-play netball activities and meets the different fitness and skill levels of women aged 15 years and over. Rock Up Netball is a flexible program that offers alternative activities as opposed to traditional netball games. Netball Victoria has considered the results of current research, which is trending toward participation in less structured forms of sport and physical activity.

The sessions are based around four key concepts:

  1. train
  2. just play
  3. netacise (a physical fitness based workout)
  4. social competition.

Rock Up Netball targets two key female markets. Those who no longer want to play competition netball, and those women and girls who are currently leading sedentary and inactive lives.

Six months into the project, Netball Victoria reports the program is successfully engaging target groups, with participant data to be assessed and made public during 2016.

Equal scheduling

Traditional scheduling of male programs during prime time needs to be a practice of the past.

Numerous stories and recommendations were provided during the Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation consultation process that provided good practice examples of sports and active recreation clubs that have enabled female and male programs to run parallel and to alternate prime
time during competitions and training.

The following will assist in providing gender equality through scheduling:

  • offer flexible program delivery through scheduling at various times of the day and night
  • equally share ‘peak’ time slots of facilities for female and male programs, regardless of the length of time a program has used the facility
  • when using shared grounds/facilities, alternate where possible, between male and female games to encourage spectator viewing of female activity, coaching and officiating
  • promote scheduling of female games on main courts/grounds
  • where possible, offer sport and active recreation programs for children at the same time as women to elevate the need for child care.

Case Study: Hockey Victoria 'Equality in Scheduling'

Hockey Victoria oversee the management and scheduling of over 80 hockey competitions in Victoria. This equates to approximately 14,000 participants of which 6,000 are female.

An equal scheduling policy has been implemented where, each week, Hockey Victoria schedules men’s and women’s teams to be aligned and play together where possible. On home days each club is viewed as a package of matches, not men’s or women’s. This means the scheduling of matches
alternates each week to ensure that men and women’s teams are given an equal share at the preferred starting times of 2pm and 3.30pm.

The shared scheduling expands to training at clubs. Teams traditionally train on a Tuesday and Thursday night. Male and female teams alternate between the time slots of 7pm and 8.30pm.

The shared scheduling is also applied to the Hockey Premier League competition live streaming. Each week Hockey Victoria stream one men’s and one women’s Premier League match live.  The start times are also shared as part of this process.

In 2015, Hockey Victoria streamed 44 matches with 50 per cent being female fixtures.


Media plays an important role in promoting the achievements of women and girls in sport and active recreation. More can be done to raise the profile of these achievements via sport and active recreation websites, social media such as Instagram, Facebook and newsletters.

Women and girls tend to research a program or club, centre or facility in depth, prior to committing.  Research tends to be via media sources or word-of-mouth.

To help promote of community sport and active recreation programs to females, the following recommendations should be considered:

  • promote sport and recreational activities through ‘up to date’ media sources such as websites and social media communication channels
  • include the health, mental and physical benefits associated with participation when marketing to women and girls
  • promote how a club, centre or facility has created a welcoming, social, motivational and safe environment for women and girls
  • identify communication channels that best suit the life stage of the target female audience
  • include a five point process to inform women and girls about the club, centre or facility.
What, when, where, how, why

“The types of programs offered, opening hours, staff composition and visual displayed within a facility can have as much of an effect on women’s use of services as factors in the built environment”

Source: Gender Equality in Local Government Partnership.

Did you know?

86% of Australian Households have internet access.  Of that figure, 72% of users access social media sites.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Household Use of Information Technology, 2015.

Integrated clubs

As we look around Victoria to the range of facilities and better understand the competing interests for future infrastructure investment, the need to maximise provision through multi-use and multi-purpose infrastructure is evident. Victoria’s sport and active recreation clubs are also becoming
more integrated not only in terms of facility sharing, but also with the implementation of inclusive management practices.

To assist in supporting integrated gender inclusive environments to maximise use:

  • create partnerships with community, government and state sporting bodies to promote physical, health and wellbeing benefits derived from participation
  • create greater community cohesion by combining or scheduling competition and social events of different sports and activities together
  • pool funds and resources and develop shared goals with other sport and recreation providers to deliver greater community benefits
  • develop and implement a code of conduct policy that identifies the behavioural expectations of all participants, coaching, officials, staff and volunteers
  • ensure equitable representation of males and females in organisational structure, governance and decision making.

Case Study: Horsham District Football League and Horsham District Netball Association amalgamation

In 2011, the Horsham District Football League along with the Horsham District Netball Association began discussion of their amalgamation. At the time, all ten of their clubs were already amalgamated football netball clubs. Both football and netball follow the same fixture, play side-by-side each Saturday,
as well as train every Tuesday and Thursday and wear the same green and gold colours at interleague competitions.

The respective boards of the league and association decided that more could be achieved for football and netball in the community if they were governed by the one body. After consultation with clubs, agreement on board structure and stringent discussions on financing, the respective boards agreed on
the terms of the merger. In 2014, they moved forward to create the Horsham District Football Netball League (HDFNL).

Since the merger, the HDFNL has welcomed two entirely new clubs to the league, boosting the total number of its associated clubs to twelve, boosting its financial prosperity. It provides profits made seasonally back to each of its associated clubs as incentives, offered in the form of financial credit
to assist clubs in buying necessities such as, sporting equipment, sporting apparel and medical supplies.

The league also ensures gender equality on its governing board with 50 per cent of its representatives female.

The HDFNL has also seen pavilion upgrades at two of its facilities in Noradjuha Quantong and Rupanyup. The redevelopment of these facilities has ensured the long-term future of their communities, for not only sport but also for all associated community events. The purpose of the redevelopments was to
provide year-round access to the region, with access to football and netball during the winter and cricket and tennis during the summer months. These facilities, along with all other league pavilions are offered for year-round use by any community organisation within the region.

Links to other relevant information

Page last updated: 17 Jul 2024
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