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Section 3: Policy that Drives Change

Influencing and creating cultural change within an industry, the community or within a sport and active recreation club environment can be a challenging and often time consuming process. However, the benefits of implementing positive change far outweigh the challenges.

The Victorian Government Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation presents a strong case for change within the community sport and active recreation sector, which is underpinned by global research and matched with extensive domestic consultation.

While the messages received through the inquiry were expressed in many ways and with many different voices, the common threads were:

  • there is a need for change
  • there is a lot of work to be done
  • collaboration is needed if change is to happen.

The desire and enablers for change must also be adopted by all levels of the community sport and active recreation sector, from local clubs to national sporting bodies, and supported by all levels of government.

The following themes were recognised during the consultation process and form the basis for the guidelines:

  • strategic planning considerations
  • funding
  • measuring success.

Girls dancing

Strategic planning considerations

Identifying the need for change, the tasks involved, the processes to take and the partners to include can be represented through formalised strategic planning.

The following tips provide opportunity for stakeholders to collaboratively develop female friendly policies that can impact, influence and drive change:

  • asset owners should systematically audit and assess the current provision of community sport and active recreation facilities and identify gaps in provision and barriers to use by women and girls
  • embed strategic directions, policy objectives and related targets into community sport and active recreation facility leasing / licensing policies as conditions of occupancy and use
  • ensure that sport and active recreation organisations promote the importance of codes of conduct and related policies that identify the behavioural expectations of participants, coaches, officials, staff and volunteers
  • ensure the needs of women and girls are reflected within local government health and wellbeing plans, physical activity strategies and open space plans.
  • Identify women and girls as a key market segment within community sport, recreation and leisure planning projects
  • ensure that planning and market estimations for future demand considers age and gender demographics and reflects participant or user life stage requirements within planning projections
  • develop and promote community sport and active recreation club and organisation female friendly self-assessment practices
  • community sport and active recreation sector to collectively investigate how competitive sports could be structured differently to target wider ranges of skills and abilities to support retention in participation
  • community sport and active recreation sector to collectively develop strategies that focus on the enhancement of skills to increase participant confidence and retention.

Case Study: Merri-bek City Council Active Women and Girls Strategy

In 2009, Merri-bek City Council (formerly Moreland City Council) began research and consultation to identify the key challenges in the provision of sport, leisure and active recreation for women and girls within the municipality. The review identified several issues:

  • serious lack of female competition and teams
  • only 8% of participants accessing council’s sports grounds were female
  • lack of development pathways for girls in sport
  • significant ‘drop out’ rate of female participants between the ages of 14-17 years
  • lack of social competitions without commitments
  • barriers for females included lack of time and cost of activities.

To address the inequity, council introduced a Sports Ground and Pavilion Allocation Policy.  The policy requested clubs to be inclusive of women, juniors, people with a disability and people from culturally diverse communities, or risk losing allocation of a ground to a club who is being inclusive. This is the first council in Victoria to prioritise the allocation and use of sporting grounds and pavilions to clubs which demonstrate inclusiveness of women and girls.

In November 2012, Merri-bek City Council reviewed the policy and renamed it the Allocation and Use of Sporting Facilities, Ground and Pavilions Policy.  The scope was broadened to include not only sports ground users but also sports leasing council facilities (e.g. tennis, lawn bowls and cycling).

The requirement also stated clubs must offer:

  • junior sides and registered community sport development programs for juniors
  • girls and women sides and/or registered community sport development programs for females.

The policy review in March 2016 has strengthened its position on inclusiveness. It now states that leasing and allocation of council facilities will only be provided to clubs whose membership provides opportunities within the club’s respective sporting codes for junior sides, female sides, female development programs and initiatives, and female representation on club committee and/or boards.

Clubs have been granted a 3 year phase-in period to work toward achieving the policy objectives. The council offered workshops and seminars to assist clubs in implementing the policy.

Sports such as football, cricket and netball have combined their governance practices, increasing camaraderie between clubs and pooling of resources to effectively deliver more female and family friendly environments and programs. One sports club now combines five different sports: football, cricket, little athletics, netball and softball. The club collectively saw a gap in activity provision for the mothers of junior participants and so the formation of netball and softball has grown from this insight.

There has been a substantial increase in female participation since the implementation of the policy. In 2009, 8% of sports ground users in Moreland were female. That figure has increased to 21% in 2016.

Case Study: Cricket Australia National Female Cricket Strategy

In 2024 in conjunction with State and Territory associations, Cricket Australia released its National Female Cricket Strategy for Game and Market Development. Building on strong participation growth driven through primary school environments, Cricket Australia identified clear avenues to enhance a sustainable female participation base, which had increased by more than 150 per cent since 2010.

The current Women and Girls Action Plan covers the period to 2034 and aims to increase female participation from grassroots through to Premier Cricket. The National Female Cricket Strategy promotes playing and non-playing participation, such as coaching, umpiring and administration. The strategy aims to:

  • assist clubs in becoming more inclusive, through the development and roll out of a comprehensive Sport For All resource and training program
  • increase female retention, particularly within club environments
  • provide better talent identification and management pathways for women and girls
  • implement more female-only competitions across the country
  • provide increased opportunities for women and girls in indoor cricket
  • actively recruit and fund women to undertake community coach or community officiating accreditation
  • provide leadership, professional development and networking opportunities for female administrators from clubs and associations.

The National Female Cricket Strategy is one element of Cricket Australia’s wider strategic vision of being a sport of choice for women and girls, which spans the full spectrum of involvement with the game including the engagement of female fans and building support for its elite women’s competitions.

On the latter point, Cricket Australia’s investment in elite women’s cricket speaks for itself, with Australia’s world champion women’s team – the Southern Stars –the highest remunerated women’s team in the country. The launch of a new national domestic competition – the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) – continues to inspire girls to play cricket. There’s also significant growth in media and broadcast exposure off the back of proactive stakeholder engagement and financial support.


Collectively, Victoria’s community sport and active recreation facilities include significant infrastructure that can incur large costs for the community. These facilities require constant operational and asset management, which in turn, will require renewal of funding over the course of a facility lifecycle.

In 2015/16 the Victorian Government introduced its Female Friendly Facilities Fund with $10 million allocated towards the provision and enhancement of female friendly sporting infrastructure.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • increase access and opportunities for female participation
  • encourage greater female participation in sport
  • offer more accessible and safer facilities to female participants
  • encourage female involvement in the facility planning process
  • promote inclusive cultures, policies and initiatives that encourage female participation

The focus of the program is to:

  • build new unisex accessible change rooms to encourage participation
  • redevelop or refurbish current change facilities to cater for all participants
  • develop new or redevelop/refurbish existing change rooms for female officials.

Industry funding and support is also required beyond infrastructure investment.  Investment into program development, activity delivery and community education is essential in driving participation and in retaining participants, coaches, officials and volunteers within community sport and active recreation environments.

Community sport and active recreation clubs, organisations and government bodies can be guided by the funding recommendations below:

  • local government can use these guidelines to plan, budget and support community sport and active recreation facility improvement applications to the Female Friendly Facilities Fund
  • local government can develop or enhance their own specific funding support programs to target women and girls participation in community sport and active recreation
  • sector partners can continue to develop jointly funded programs and initiatives that seek to grow community sport and active recreation for women and girls
  • target specific program funding to model the female stages of life, ensuring that vulnerable age groups are supported (e.g. transition age groups from junior to senior participation for 14-17 year olds)
  • consider reduced fees, charges or membership costs in pricing policies as incentives where demonstration in growing female participation can be shown
  • prioritise funding towards supporting women and girls participation in major change programs and initiatives.

Measuring success

Once facilities and programs are developed and in operation, the focus must move from what has been created, to how do we maximise use and benefits.

Sport and active recreation facilities create environments for users and employees and the performance of these environments influence the activities that are conducted within them and user-experience. Formulation of techniques capable of assessing facility and operational performance in terms of quality, cost, usage and effectiveness in meeting primary objectives is critical to appropriately measuring operational success.

Community sport and active recreation clubs, centres, organisations and government bodies can all contribute to the gathering, analysis and reporting of data and information on women and girls participation and on the female friendly infrastructure by implementing the following initiatives:

  • use industry and local community data to make evidence based decisions on strategic directions to increase participation in women and girls sport and active recreation activities
  • improve the quality and consistency of participant data collection and management to better gauge industry trends in female participation
  • recognise community sport and active recreation clubs and organisations that successfully adopt and implement inclusive female policies and procedures
  • community sport and active recreation facility managers and owners to revise report management systems to enable clear reporting and measurement of female related program and facility use
  • community, sport and government organisations to regularly undertake surveys of female participants, coaches, officials, staff and volunteers to enable the monitoring and reporting on trends, changes and opportunities.

Case Study: Sport England 'This Girl Can'

In January 2015, Sport England launched the nationwide This Girl Can campaign, which aims to break down the barriers to participation in sport and active recreation for women and girls.  This Girl Can promotes the message of female participation, regardless of shape, size or ability.

Independent research has identified that 2.8 million females had exercised as a direct result of the initiative.

This Girl Can currently has a 540,000 strong social media community which Sport England hopes to further promote, in order to address the gender gap of 1.73 million fewer women playing sport compared to men in England.

The campaign demonstrates the need for a worldwide consensus on changing culture surrounding woman in sport and physical recreation.

Sport England campaign poster of a woman on a bike with the caption, 'I'm slow but I'm lapping everyone on the couch.

Sport England have also developed an Insights Pack, Go Where Women Are, which includes up-to-date research exploring the relevant motivations, barriers and triggers to getting more women more active.

Links to other relevant information

Page last updated: 17 Jul 2024
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