Council first in Gippsland to adopt game-changing policy

Wellington Shire Council is the first in Gippsland to adopt a policy designed to level the playing field when it comes to women and girls participating in sport and active recreation.

Council hopes its new Fair Access Policy will deliver fair access to community sports facilities, including changerooms, ovals and courts, for all members of the community. This will hopefully lead to increased participation for women and girls in sport, from grassroots through to leadership roles, allowing Wellington’s local sporting communities to prosper well into the future.

The policy is part of the Australia-first Fair Access Policy Roadmap, led by the Victorian Government’s Office for Women in Sport and Recreation in conjunction with VicHealth and Sport and Recreation Victoria, and was reviewed by GippSport.

The inclusion of external stakeholders in policy design has ensured the voices and experiences of the community are captured, such as GippSport’s years of work improving opportunities for women and girls across the region.

The policy, adopted in December 2023, seeks to address known barriers experienced by women and girls in accessing community and sporting infrastructure, making facilities safer, more inclusive, and welcoming environments for everyone.

Actions from the Fair Access Policy include:

• Prioritising smaller infrastructure funding to address immediate or significant barriers, such as baby change facilities, changeroom cubicles and improved signage;

• Ensuring adequate provision of lighting and cleaning of Council-managed public facilities to ensure open space areas and supporting infrastructure are welcoming, safe and inclusive;

• Providing training to committees of management and sporting clubs in partnership with key stakeholders including Change Our Game, GippSport and Gippsland Women’s Health; and

• Collecting and monitoring sport participation and committee data to track progress over time, and ensuring diverse representation on committees.

Earlier this year, Wellington was one of 12 councils to receive the Victorian Government’s Free From Violence Funding, which aims to eliminate gender-based violence. The funding will ensure actions from the Fair Access Policy can be implemented throughout Wellington, such as delivering active bystander and gender equity training to sporting and community groups.

Wellington Shire Council Mayor Ian Bye acknowledged the disadvantaged position some individuals have in sport and recreation because of their gender – “and that’s not on.”

“For the future of sport in Wellington, we need to make sure we encourage everyone to participate by making sure our thriving sporting community is a supportive and safe environment,” he said.

“This policy aims to eliminate the systemic causes of gender inequality when it comes to developing Council’s policies, programs and communications, as well as delivering services relating to community sports infrastructure.”

Director of the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation Sarah Styles commended Council’s commitment to ensuring community sporting environments were welcoming, accessible and inclusive for all.

“The Office looks forward to continuing to work with all Victorian councils as gender equitable access and use policies are adopted state-wide, to create a level play field for women and girls to fully participate in and enjoy the benefits of community sport,” she said.

To view the Fair Access Policy, click here.

/Public Release. View in full here.