Infrastructure funding to be tied to gender equity for Victorian councils

Victorian councils will need to demonstrate that their sports facilities offer women equal access to be eligible for infrastructure funding from July 2024.

Sarah Styles

This makes Victoria the first state in Australia to impose this requirement on local government as part of its Fair Access Policy roadmap, which aims to improve access to and use of local sporting infrastructure for women and girls.

The strategy is aimed at groups that manage public sports infrastructure, including local governments, and is bound by the state’s Gender Equality Act.

The legislation requires councils to consider gender equality when developing or reviewing policies, programs and services that have “direct and significant impact on the public”, including community sports.

“As such, local governments are required by law to conduct gender impact assessments and to consider and promote gender equality in those community sports policies, programs and services,” the roadmap reads.

unfair access

Community Sports Minister Ros Spence says many Victorian women and girls don’t have access to the best pitches or facilities, or have to make do with second-rate facilities and less favorable competition and training times.

“These barriers make it difficult for many to participate or do their best,” she said.

Sarah Styles, director of the Office of Women in Sport and Recreation, said the new policy will ensure community sports environments are welcoming, accessible and inclusive for all.

“We look forward to working with all stakeholders wherever they may be along the way,” she said.

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dr Niki Vincent, commissioner for gender equality in the public sector, writes in the roadmap that historically women and girls have been overlooked when it comes to sporting activities and infrastructure.

“I look forward to this project that supports local councils to take positive action to make community sport more accessible and inclusive to more people,” she said.

support for councils

The roadmap says some local governments are “well advanced” in implementing policies and programs for gender-sensitive access and use.

As an example, Frankston City Council released a Gender Inclusive Sporting Club: Self-Assessment Tool as part of its 2021-29 Active Leisure Strategy to help clubs assess their current performance and identify opportunities for improvement.

However, other councils still have a long way to go, and the roadmap recognizes that some councils, particularly smaller rural and regional organizations, will face challenges in “delivering gender-sensitive access and bringing policies and programs to life”.

Phased approach

The roadmap includes three key phases: Formation, Readiness, and Progress.

Training, education and support for local councils will be provided by the Office for Women in Sports and Recreation in the first phase starting this year.

The roadmap states that councils do not necessarily need gender policies in their own right, but can embed approaches to equitable access into other areas such as sports and leisure strategies or public health and well-being plans.

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