It was almost standing room only at the Change Our Game International Women’s Day event, hosted by the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation and supporting partner Victoria University.
VU’s Professor Clare Hanlon (Susan Alberti Women in Sport Chair) and Professor Marcia Devlin (Deputy Vice-Chancellor), joined more than five hundred people to hear athletes, sports reporters and retired sporting legends to discuss the continuing challenges about the media coverage of women in sport.
Before handing over to official host VU alumna and former Australian cricketer-turned-commentator Melanie Jones, The Hon Linda Dessau, Governor of Victoria, opened the event by reminding the room that sport is for everyone, no matter their gender, religion, ethnicity, body shape or skill level.
About gender equity, Dessau said: “We will prosper when we have gender parity in our community, and when I say ‘we’, I do mean we. Men and women share a collective responsibility to ensure that one day - hopefully in less than the 108 years that’s predicted - we do have gender parity in our country. Where men and women are treated equally and it’s not just seen as a women’s issue – something for women to worry about for women.”
Tracey Holmes reveals how sporting failure led to journalistic success
ABC’s Tracey Holmes took to the podium to talk about her experiences growing up in a family of competition surfers. At one point, the family followed the circuit to South Africa and then Hawaii, and finally back to Australia where Holmes was encouraged to take part in surfing competitions. The experience taught her something invaluable.
“I hated every minute of it. During competitions, I’d sit on my board out the back, too afraid to catch a wave.”
Instead, Holmes would talk to all of her competitors. “I asked them about their families, their lives, where they went to school, everything. It was my absolute failure as an athlete that taught me how to watch, listen and how to get other people talking. I realised I had what it took to be a journalist.”
Commentators discuss visability & voice for women in sport
The event ended with a discussion moderated by Dr Bridie O’Donnell, featuring Melanie Jones, Stef Hanson (Witsup.com), Pat Shaw (cycling commentator) and Steve Whately (Nielsen Sports & Entertainment). Shaw suggested that the best time to promote women’s cycling was during the Tour de France and said he was troubled by how early children align different sports with different genders. “When my kids want to cut a story out of the paper for a project, it’s virtually all men’s sport stories… that needs to change.”
Jones closed the successful event by sharing some timely and important advice: “It’s about how you can you use your voice in this conversation and don’t feel as if you always have to be one right at the front all the time. Maybe that’s not your place at that time, but there might be another occasion. And if that occasion arises, I challenge you to back yourself.”