The Associated Schools recently spoke with Demelza Fellowes from the board of directors at Women Sport Australia about, you guessed it, women and girls in sport! The Associated Schools is more than proud to offer equal sporting opportunities in a co-educational sporting competition, and is excited to continue championing female sport across Queensland.
Women Sport Australia is a peak volunteer advocacy body who works to establish equity for women and girls participating in sport throughout Australia. Their objectives are brought to life through events and programs such as their Women in Sport Photography Action Awards, mentoring programs and advocacy activities which include research based grant campaigns.
Let’s hear what Demelza has to say about this awesome organisation and how important it is to encourage our female athletes, whether you’re a parent on the sidelines of our weekend games or die-hard supporter in front of the TV at home.
Have you worked with any athletes from Queensland and what has their success been like?
Demelza said that as a Queensland pathway athlete herself in netball, she believes seeing local women achieve their goals and dreams is immensely important. There are a number of young athletes coming through their mentoring programs and even some very successful athletes now stepping in as mentors themselves for the next generation.
She said what’s important for Women Sport Australia as an advocacy body is that they continue to work hard to ensure all women and girls participating, from grassroots level right through to elite, have fair and equal opportunities to enjoy and thrive in the sport they love.
Can you tell us about some of the community projects Women Sport Australia are involved in?
This year, Women Sport Australia facilitated a ‘Get In The Game’ program with Cadbury, where they engaged sports clubs and organisations across the country to show them what steps they’re taking to overcome barriers for women and girls in sport through Cadbury’s uniform program. They received over 450 entries and gave out almost $200,000 in grants for new uniforms – what a tremendous initiative!
Women Sport Australia also hosts the annual Women in Sport Photography Action Awards, which recognises exceptional amateur and professional photographers covering women’s sport at grassroots and elite levels. Demelza said the awards are gaining reverence and the industry is working hard to raise the profile in normalising the presence of women’s sport in the social eye. She proudly quoted that “you have to see it to be it” which we couldn’t agree more with.
How Does Women Sport Australia Support Young Girls?
Demelza said the most direct way the organisation assists young girls is through:
- WSA’s mentoring program and workshops.
- Through the equity pledge network to the grassroots organisations who are in charge of delivering sport and programming to the community.
- Hosting round tables that discuss infrastructure, uniforms and governance equity amongst other key issues.
- Connecting peak bodies to the government and philanthropy organisations that fund initiatives to support women and girls.
You mention influencing change in your 2026 vision, can you talk more about this? Demelza reported that in order to improve the opportunities for women and girls, remove barriers to participation, enhance the equity of pay, create leadership opportunities and address issues with infrastructure and governance; you have to be having tough conversations and continually taking action.
She said we can influence change by lobbying government organisations to do more research on particular needs, speaking to philanthropists and corporates about investing in programming to support women and girls, and asking questions of the industry around how they’re applying different perspectives to their structures and planning.
How have you seen sports for girls and women change over the years?
The board of directors member stated that there has been significant improvements in opportunities for women and girls to play every and any sport at most age groups. She said it’s exciting to see that women and girls can now play all the different footy codes, professional sports women of all varieties are on the television, there are more women leaders in sport and the typical view of ‘play like a girl’ is completely different to what it was 10-20 years ago.
She thinks things can still be better as the industry isn’t quite there yet in terms of equitable pay, leadership and coaching roles, and visibility; but access has improved which means Australia is on the right trajectory.
What advice do you have for young girls in school sport?
Demelza’s advice for young TAS players is to always give it a go! She said to remember that sport and being active has so many benefits for wellbeing, physical health, social connection, entertainment, enjoyment and achievement.
It also doesn’t have to just be about participating on the field, if you’re not that keen on playing it doesn’t mean you can’t be a coach, referee, team manager, commentator, journalist, administrator, physiotherapist or water runner! There are so many ways you can stay actively engaged with sport for life and continue to enjoy the benefits.
Her final note was that there’s nothing you can’t do, it’s about finding your tribe in the sport you enjoy and giving it your best shot.