Calling on ACT Labor to commit to grassroots sports

Today I spoke in response to a motion brought in the parliament, and called on the government to actually be serious about their commitment to women’s sports, particularly at the grass roots.

Yes, we can see that there is great support for the elite sports such as the Canberra Capitals and Canberra United. But where this government is failing the sporting community, and not just women – is at the grass roots level. They have failed to provide appropriate facilities for many years now. Facilities such as the indoor pool at Stromlo, indoor sporting centres for Gungahlin, Belconnen and Woden, appropriate change rooms at various sporting venues. And there has been a failure to support individual sports, such as school diving. Let me detail these failures further.

Beginning with the Stromlo pool – a feasibility study was published for the pool in October of 2012. In 2015, the Government published a further report advising the urgent building of this facility and other facilities in Gungahlin and Woden. Now in 2017, the latest budget pushes out the building of the pool at Stromlo even later, with an opening date at some time in 2020 and possibly even later still – going on past practice with this government. Which means that from 2012 and of course well before then, till 2020, the people of Molonglo, Civic, Woden, and Tuggeranong, have to continue to wait for that pool – women, men and children. Though it will not include a dive pool. And there is no discussion here of an indoor sports centre, though this was strongly recommended to be included in the facility.

This does not bode well for the Gungahlin indoor sports centre, also first promised in 2012. Last year the Minister told the Assembly that a feasibility study would begin in early 2017, and earlier this year we were told that it was ‘being conducted’. Yet the budget shows us that only now has money been allocated for this initiative – which we of course welcome. But besides misleading the people of Canberra, it yet again demonstrates the failure of this Minister to appropriately administer this portfolio and deliver on important facilities which will help with the participation of Canberrans in a cold climate.

Then there is the lack of appropriate facilities in many instances for women – and by this I am referring to change rooms, toilets and showers. With their own report highlighting the very basic and inadequate nature of these in many of the smaller venues throughout the ACT.

And let me give as one example of the lack of recognition and support for smaller and non-elite sports by this Minister. Late last year, parents of a number of female junior divers registered to attend the Pacific School Games in December this year contacted me. According to them, the ACT School Sport Council’s Finance Sub Committee made the decision that it would take between 8-10 students to compete in order to minimise their financial risk.

Financial risk! This is a group that is completely self-funded and were willing to cover all costs to compete on behalf of the ACT themselves. Highly motived young girls and boys who have trained hard all year, despite incredibly adverse circumstances because of the lack of appropriate facilities here in the ACT to support their sport. Again. And despite their ongoing requests – letters to the Minister, they will not be going. But then they are not elite – or not yet. And now they will not have the opportunity to be elite performers – as there is no support. Not for their facility, not for their attendance at a meet, not for their participation at the grass roots.

So we call on the government, this Minister, to get serious in her support of women’s sport, but not just at the elite levels, but also at the grassroots where it counts – for smaller sports, as well as the larger sports organisations – and to start actually making some inroads into the delivery of sporting facilities here in the ACT.