Women in Sport

July 29, 2019

It's a pleasure to speak to this motion moved by the member for Lalor. Everywhere you look right now, Australian women are kicking goals on the international sporting stage. Ash Barty won the French Open and is ranked No. 1 in the world, and golfer Hannah Green won the Women's PGA Championship. The Hockeyroos made the final of the International Hockey Federation Pro League, the Australian women's cricket team have just won the Ashes led by captain Meg Lanning, and the Matildas, who I love to watch when they play in Penrith, reached the final 16 in the FIFA World Cup, while our Netball Diamonds fought hard in the Netball World Cup. That's just a sample of the things women are doing on the international stage. In my own electorate of Macquarie, we have extraordinary women who are role-modelling how to be elite athletes and performers. Jessica Fox, canoe slalom Olympic medallist, is preparing for Tokyo, and Amanda Spratt, road racing cyclist, has been really making her mark in Europe in the last month.

So I want to congratulate all these women for their sporting achievements, and I also want to congratulate them for something else: for the impact they are having on the next generation of girls and women who are coming behind them. When we scroll through Facebook or Instagram, listen to the radio or watch TV, we are now seeing these phenomenal women and their achievements, their strength and their discipline all around us. It isn't just the blokes in the limelight now. Ladies, well done. You're inspiring girls and women right across the country.

We know the benefits for girls of playing sport. The Hon Dame Quentin Bryce summed it up really well:

Girls worldwide who play sport are more likely to attend and stay in school, more likely to finish their education, more likely to be in better health and earn higher wages during the course of their lives.

It has such important benefits, not just that sense of achievement when you do actually win. Locally I acknowledge the great work of Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury sporting clubs in their efforts to make girls sporting competitions run and grow. This is where it all starts. These clubs are contributing to something much bigger than their local competition. As a parent I see how important those comps are for young girls especially in the teenage years—not just an opportunity to work as a team, to learn about fair play and to learn about losing but a chance to develop friendships outside the school environment, creating another support network for our teenagers. We need to continue to harness the momentum coming from these local clubs and from the success of Australian women on the national and international stages.

And we do need to invest. More money needs to go into this sector. Time alone will not do this. I think there's a long way to go, though, for women to be as respected as men in the sporting world. I'm not just talking about the enormous pay gap that most sports still face or the second jobs that women have to take in order to fund their sport. A photo taken of Tayla Harris kicking the opening goal in an AFL match highlighted her impeccable athleticism, but the response didn't reflect that. The response from some was misogynistic and highly sexualised. Instead of seeing a woman in her workplace at the top of her game, laying a path for girls in sport for generations to come, literally kicking a goal, some people saw an opportunity to attack her—and didn't they do just that! I take this opportunity to congratulate the AFL, the AFL community and Tayla Harris herself for the response. It turned what could have been another far-too-common instance of a woman being trolled online into a pivotal moment where those people were called out for their disgusting behaviour, and a conversation was had about women in sport and what treatment they should expect. The conversation wasn't just had in a boardroom with a small group of people who cared; it was on the front pages and on primetime TV.

While there is a way to go for equality in the sporting arena, looking at women like Mo Hope, Sam Kerr, Ash Barty, Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry, Emily Smith, Caitlin Bassett, Hannah Green and Sally Fitzgibbons, thanks to the professionalism that they show I'm very confident about the future of women's sport. There's one thing I'd add: none of it would be possible without the incredible support that they have from coaches, managers, physios, dietitians and of course their families. We need to make sure all those groups stay strong and can support us to continue to achieve in women's sport.