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Friday, April 23, 2021

Newcastle sportswomen left out of funding loop

The Shortland United Junior Football Club is just one of the many local organisations backing Wallsend state MP Sonia Hornery’s calls to find out why the NSW Government rolled out a $50 million fund for women in sport… but excluded Newcastle groups from applying.

The NSW Minister for Sport, Geoff Lee, recently announced the massive financial windfall for the delivery and enhancement of female sporting facilities, including change rooms.

The funding will provide new and improved amenities to make it easier for girls and women to dominate on the field or courts.

However, when Ms Hornery made enquiries about it, the Minister’s office advised her the Newcastle LGA (local government area) was omitted from the program – and there were no plans for a specific fund that they could apply for.

“What we have here is another example of this government deciding when Newcastle is classed as regional and when it is classed as metro,” she said.

“For a long time, sportswomen and many sports dominated by female participants have missed out on their fair share of funding.

“A fund like this is much-needed.

“There’s a lack of adequate facilities for women in local sport and this can be a barrier to female participation in sport.”

There is a lack of change room facilities for women in the Newcastle LGA.

Unfortunately, the Shortland United Junior Football Club is a classic example.

The small organisation only boasts a few women’s sides.

However, if multiple teams are playing on their fields at the same time, then often the female players are forced to change in the single toilet (on site) or in their cars.

And, that’s simply not acceptable, according to secretary Steven Beatty.

“We have two tiny change rooms and two toilets to cater for the whole club,” he said.

“In previous years, we’ve had a couple of dedicated teams but there are a lot of girls and young women [here].

“The facilities just aren’t suited for them.

“At the moment, they turn up ready to go [at training] – and have to return home sweaty.

“Or, they get undressed in one of the change rooms or toilets, which they’re not entirely comfortable with.

“It’s completely understandable, especially if someone just walks in.

“We don’t have a designated women’s dressing shed.”

Shortland United Junior Football Club secretary Steven Beatty.

Mr Beatty said the rise of the W-League and high-profile of the national side, the Matildas, had seen an increase in playing numbers.

“I guess it wasn’t a big problem before, however football is very popular these days,” he explained.

“And, there’s also a huge drive for women to participate in sport.

“They’re encouraged to join in but there is nothing specific for them, in the way of amenities.

“In fact, it hasn’t changed in 30 years.

“It’s something every club should have planned or installed – whether it’s for juniors or women.”

In 2020, Ms Hornery jointly hosted a Women in Sports roundtable with Shadow Minister for Sport Lynda Voltz, Gosford MP and Paralympian gold medallist Liesl Tesch, and her Hunter parliamentary colleagues, where they learnt first-hand about the conditions that females in sports faced with a lack of change rooms and facilities.

“So, when I heard about a fund specifically for the provision of new and improved women’s amenities, I felt a sense of excitement,” she said.

“But, that was soon dashed when the Minister’s office advised Newcastle would again be excluded from any funding.

“I would like Mr Lee to explain to the women of Newcastle why he considers them to be less important than those in the rest of NSW?

“Why do they not deserve to be included in the fund or have a similar fund for them to apply for?

“If the idea here is to level the playing field between men’s and women’s sport, then why are women in Newcastle less deserving?

“I will be asking the Minister to explain this.

“And, I can’t wait for his answer.”

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