Community Sports vital in reducing gendered violence

  • The Mount Alexander Falcon's women's team play AFL

The Mount Alexander Falcon's women's team play AFL

Nestled in the shadow of Leanganook, on Djaara county, a new sports club has grown with inclusivity at its heart over the last three years. Club president Alana Wearne says "The Mount Alexander Falcons play AFL, but with a distinct emphasis on welcoming everyone to the club in ways each member can contribute and participate. Acknowledgment of the sport's roots in the First Nation’s game Marngrook, and openly recruiting women and gender diverse people, the club has seen a surge of support- fielding the region's largest Auskick program and a senior team. "

Victoria’s Loddon Campaspe region is home to more than 750 sport and recreation organisations, representing over 50 different sports and recreational activities. Castlemaine, the largest town in Mount Alexander Shire, already had a vibrant First Nation's community, and there were many smaller towns and clubs in the Shire, some of which were struggling to recruit players and volunteers. All the Shire’s sportsgrounds had 'dibs' on them.  Many sports recognised poor culture/ gender-bias and are working to increase female participation through new teams and competitions. Why would the community put energy into starting a new club, and embrace it so fiercely, in this active landscape?

Well, the solution to achieve gender equality in sport, is neatly explained by Falcon’s Secretary Gabe Smith:

"It starts with respect for women. Respect needs to exist for the space to be safe, and the safest way to ensure this was to start a new club- with the culture that was dreamed possible. Sport is an important setting where gender inequality and its drivers can be challenged, and equality championed. By ensuring equality, we create inclusive, healthy and safe environments for women, men, girls, boys and gender diverse people. This helps prevent violence against women. A new club was needed to build this mindset, to be a safe and welcoming from the beginning."

The Falcons initially struggled to be accepted by the local league - their journey to playing is captured in the documentary "Equal the Contest" by emerging filmmaker and player Mitch Nivalis.  This film has garnered international attention and inspired similar clubs further afield.

In parallel over a 2 year period, the club partnered with Sports Focus, LaTrobe University and Mount Alexander Shire in an action-research project to build the capacity and determine the readiness of regional community sport and recreation to prevent and respond to family violence, sexual violence and violence against women both in sport and through sport.

Initial findings show that gendered violence and disrespect within our sporting community exists and is an issue, validating the reasoning behind the club and the community’s embrace of the Falcons. The research also shows there is a genuine desire by many to make change and respond to incidences, however Club volunteers require greater knowledge, skills and tools to enable them to do so. The study shows thriving clubs are the ones that understand and value diversity and embrace what diversity has to offer – the clubs that are taking proactive approach to fairness and equality.

The next step in the project is to fully develop the concepts identified, acknowledging that every club will have different issues and need support in different ways, and in developing resources which provides options for any club at any point. It will include:

  • A webpage (hosted by Sports Focus) as a central point for clubs to find information – a collation of all existing resources, guidance on “what to do when…” & local contacts.
  • Resources to communicate and explain gender-based violence and how to respond.
  • Resources to support a club to progress their club environment and address issues around gender-based violence and equity, including audits, member surveys and action plans.
  • Education and training options for clubs who want to progress further.

We look forward to watching the project unfold and seeing the impacts it can have on our communities. 

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