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Sport, Health & Wellbeing

UC’s Sport Strategy: highlighting our women in sport

UC’s 2021-2026 Sport Strategy was released today, outlining our commitment to women in sport, gender equality, sport integrity and building a culture of wellness in Canberra.

Sport lies at the heart of the University of Canberra. It is part of our history, present and future. It embodies our values – integrity, collaboration, inclusion, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Here at UC, it’s the passion of our people that make up the sporting culture – we have some incredible staff, students, and alumni who contribute to sport through research, coaching, and participation.

Hear from some of our remarkable women in sport, as they highlight the importance of gender equity, both on and off the field.

Dr Catherine Ordway, Assistant Professor (Sports Management)

My passion for sport came from the rush it gave me, the friendships I made, and the joy that comes from seeing people pushing themselves to be the best they could be.

From before I was old enough to play competitive sport, I remember watching my Mum at netball and tennis, or from the back of the squash courts with my brother.

My mother came from a family of sporty women; my Grandma and the Neill sisters played representative hockey for my hometown of Whyalla, South Australia. Inspired by my Mum, I also played A-Grade and city representative tennis and netball.

Mum encouraged me to play sport, ferrying me around to various training sessions, coaching camps, and tournaments, standing for hours on the sidelines in all weather, and hitting me baskets of tennis balls. I’ll always look back on my sporting career, including my Olympic career, and know it was thanks to my Mum’s dedication in my younger years.

My latest sport adventure is as goalkeeper in my Women in Need Of Soccer (WINOS) Masters team. I hoped that my previous experience goalkeeping in Olympic Handball might be a transferable skill. It is, but keeping remains extremely challenging!

The synergies between women’s sport and women in sport are essential. The broad visibility of women in sport is a crucial signal that girls have the opportunity and right to achieve at all levels.

Carrie Graf, Director of Sport

Like many, I’ve been involved in sport since I was a kid, when I played and tried many different sports. This was prompted by my parents, who had a passion for sport and encouraged our involvement in sport activities and teams.

The current phrase that we are hearing a lot lately regarding women and girls in sport – ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ – rings true for me. I believe it is so important for young people to see and experience women across all realms of the sport industry, from CEOs and chairs of sporting organisations to athletes, coaches, referees, and commentators. And not just of women’s sport, but of all sport and sporting codes – both men’s and women’s.

For me personally, as a little kid who had a passion for sport, I was told often I couldn’t play ‘because you are a girl’, and that seemed so unfair to my eight-year-old self. As a young, sporty kid, I didn’t really see gender until it was highlighted to me in this way.

I remember being a 10-year-old who loved to play AFL footy, sitting next to my Dad at the MCG watching Richmond play, and turning to him to say “Dad, I can’t play for the Tigers can I?”.

Kim Wilmshurst, Sports Development Manager

I have been involved in sport pretty much my whole life. Growing up in the UK, I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged participation in sport, and some of my earliest memories are doing some kind of sport. I grew up in Sheffield, which is well-known in the UK for its sporting heritage.

When I was young, the World University Games came to Sheffield, and I was part of the opening ceremony. Sport became part of my identity among my friends and peers, especially when I started winning things and representing my county. I've always felt this power in sport to make a difference in people's lives. I love the concept of competing against oneself, of challenging yourself to do something you didn’t think possible.

I think sport has an incredible power to turn women into national heroes.

Australian women have done the nation proud, and for many people, Cathy Freeman is the quintessential national sporting icon. For me, that's the opportunity that sport continues to give female athletes. Sport is an important platform to show what women can do and raise awareness of inequalities.

I know my daughters will be better off for all the work that both women and men are doing today to promote women in sport.

Sarah Walsh, Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science student and Paralympian

I was born without a fibula in my lower right leg, and so the limb was amputated when I was 18 months old. It hasn’t stopped me being involved in sport – and I have been involved in some sort of sport for most of my life.

My parents always encouraged me to participate in sport just like any other kid. I was around nine when I became involved in athletics, and have continued ever since!

I never wanted to be seen as different from any other kid my age, and participated in sport because I loved being out there and showing people that despite my amputation I could still do everything just like other kids.

Sport gave me the opportunity to show how strong and capable I was.

I think it’s so important to have females represented in sport, to provide young girls with role models to look up to – and show that girls are just as capable of playing sport as men are.

For me, I am still in the midst of my sporting career and being able to put on the green and gold to represent Australia, and the Paralympics and World Championships is a dream come true.

Looking to the future, the opportunity for all to participate in sport should be provided – whether they want to compete competitively or just for fun.

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