House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business

Women in Sport

7:22 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Equality is more than words on paper, although often it starts as statements and words and laws. True equality fuses in the hearts, the souls and the minds. As we know, sport has the capacity to mirror the soul. It can draw out truths and shine a path in ways that other parts of life can't. Sport brings us together. The stories of sport are the stories of Australia: Cathy Freeman lighting the cauldron and running the 400 metres of her life; Ash Barty and Evonne Goolagong-Cawley holding up Wimbledon trophies; my constituent and friend Ellie Cole and her 17 amazing Paralympics medals; Michelle Payne in the Melbourne Cup; Marjorie Jackson-Nelson, the gold medallist who went on to be governor; Jane Saville and her grit; Betty Cuthbert and her strength on and off the track; and, of course, 'our Dawn', whose achievements and larrikin spirit embody so much about this country.

Last month we witnessed a new claim on our national heart with the performance of the Matildas at the FIFA World Cup. It's an event that broke TV-viewing records and captured the country. The Matildas are our team: more than equality in words but in heart, soul and enthusiasm as well—a complete embodiment of our country and its hopes. The Matildas aren't alone, of course, in demonstrating sporting success. The Australian Diamonds recently achieved their 12th Netball World Cup title, cementing their position as one of the world's most exceptional netball teams, and the Australian women's cricket team have recently produced incredible performances, retaining the Ashes in 2023 and claiming victory in the 2022 World Cup and the T20 World Cup.

Australia is a proud sporting nation, and I acknowledge the member for Werriwa who has put forward this important motion. In less than a decade, Australia will host its third Olympic Games. It's an extraordinary achievement and a vote of confidence in our country. Melbourne in 1956 and Sydney in 2000 in different eras transformed the way we saw ourselves as a country and created a generation of sporting heroes. Success always starts with investing in the grassroots, and it filters up. That's why I'm pleased to support Peter Dutton's commitment to allocate $250 million over four years for female sports infrastructure. It means having changing rooms for women as good as the blokes have. Women shouldn't have to feel that they need to get changed in car parks or open fields or only feel safe showering at home.

I know that in my electorate such facilities matter. In 2018 I secured $2.7 million in federal funding for Greenway Park in my electorate. Greenway Park Sportshouse opened in 2021, and, importantly, those facilities provide important spaces for women's participation in sport. The evidence from the previous Olympics is clear: we need to invest in the grassroots now if we are to squeeze everything we can out of the 2032 Brisbane Olympics. That includes investing heavily in sporting infrastructure that's more accessible for women.

As we acknowledge the champions of sport today, I want to acknowledge one from my own electorate, the late great Robin Timmins. Robin passed away last month. She was a pioneer in women's sport in this country. Robin loved our community. She was a passionate member of the Beecroft garden club, served as president of the Beecroft Probus club and was a lifelong Liberal. But perhaps most of all Robin loved rugby. Robin became involved in the Eastwood District Rugby Referees Association in 1963, 60 years ago. There was no Eastwood rugby fan who was more devoted or passionate than Robin. In 1968 she joined Sydney Rugby Union as a secretary. She soon expressed an interest in sitting the referees exam, but was told women weren't allowed to participate. So Robin, in typical style, read the organisation's constitution and, after finding no mention of gender, convinced the chairman to let her sit the exam. She passed and became the first female rugby union referee in the country.

Becoming Australia's first female rugby referee wasn't the only feat that Robin achieved. In 2002 she was the first woman to be awarded life membership by the New South Wales Rugby Union Referees Association, for her outstanding contribution to refereeing. In 2013 she received the OAM and became the first woman in NSW rugby union's 139-year history to be awarded honorary life membership. In the same year, she received the International Rugby Board Development Award for her service to the game. Robin blazed a trail for generations of Australian women in rugby to come. Not only did she break through barriers for women in the game; through her committed service to the game she opened many doors for more women to become involved.

Just like the superstars we see on TV today, Robin helped other women to see what was possible as a woman in her chosen sport. Robin's sport was rugby, and I have little doubt, knowing what a sport tragic she was, that she would have cheered the roof off for the Matildas as well.

This motion rightly acknowledges not only how far women's sport has come in this country but also how much more potential and opportunity for achievement there still is into our future.


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