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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8887


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (19:11): I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the Australian government's response to the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee report About time! Women in sport and recreation in Australia, which was presented earlier today.

Leave granted.

Senator McKENZIE: I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I thank the Senate for allowing me to speak briefly on the government response to this report. It really sparked my attention when I saw this on the red this morning because, back in the day, when I was lecturing in physical education at Monash University, I actually referred to this report. What a great surprise that, six years after it was tabled in the Senate, we get a government response. It took six years for them to move on women's sport and to give us a bit of an oversight! The deputy chair for the inquiry was the late Judith Adams. The report discussed a range of issues about women at the time accessing and participating fully in sport. One of the issues it went to was the coverage of female sport in the media, something that my mother has been an extremely strong advocate of. I do not want to call her out for the Herald Sun, but she is the anonymous caller from Leongatha who at regular intervals lets them know how many girl tennis players were in the sports pages as opposed to how many footballers.

Be that as it may, the issue of women's, particularly young women's, participation in physical activity, in sport, is complex. It is not as simple as mandating the number of hours people must watch girls playing sport—role models, money et cetera. There are sociocultural issues also that are at play, and issues with the education of young women and how we run our phys. ed. classrooms. This was an area of my research. For instance, you may be interested to know that when children are in primary school boys and girls participate in sport and physical activity at roughly similar rates. And yet when they get to high school, particularly adolescence, something happens: the boys continue with their sport and young women tend to drop out, and there are complex reasons why they do. Those of us whose professions are around health and physical activity are trying to find out why that is at a local level.

Briefly, I would just like to return to the issue of coverage of women's sport in the mainstream media. I am a keen 'country' netballer, I will say—nothing elite about my game—but I remember that getting up early on a Sunday morning to watch the coverage of the national league was something that I did because that was what I was passionate about. Now, we have sell-out crowds not only for the international Silver Ferns and Diamonds games but even for our national league—and it was my privilege to attend the semifinal in Melbourne with the Vixens going down to the Magic. Be that as it may, I think that shows that over time the professionalisation of women's sport is occurring as some of these strategies are attended to.

One of the things in the response that I am a little concerned about, though, is under the strategy around leadership. It says that the Australian government will drive further changes in the area of gender balance on boards, specifically in the context of sporting boards. Going to Senator Fierravanti-Wells's comments on quotas, that is something that I would have an issue with—using gender in sport from a governance perspective—because I think that sometimes in sports such as netball, where the predominant cohort of people playing it in our society is female, it is totally appropriate that the majority of people on those boards are female.

Similarly, for other types of sports: where there is a totally rational reason for a gender imbalance in the participation rates then it is totally appropriate for those who are of the gender that is mostly participating to be represented likewise on the boards. I would be concerned if quotas were brought into sporting boards. I will have a lot more to say on this particular government response, and so I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted, debate adjourned.