Senate debates

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


Women in Sport

8:04 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I would like to seek the indulgence of the Senate to give a brief update on the latest sporting foray between us and our great rivals New Zealand. And, no, it is not the rugby, it is not the Constellation Cup and it is not the Olympics. It is indeed between the parliamentary netball team of New Zealand, known locally as the 'Parli Ferns', and our own iconic netball team. It is great to see one of my fabulous team members, Senator McAllister, in the Senate chamber tonight. We call ourselves the Owls. We are very clever—the collective noun for owls is a parliament.

Lisa Alexander, the Australian Diamonds head coach, said:

Netball has given me the structure, discipline, role models and self-confidence to be the coach and leader I am today. It has tested me and given me the place to apply my drive and passion for excellence and continuous learning.

Her players displayed all that and more during Sunday's Constellation Cup and, indeed, did our players during our participation with the New Zealand parliamentary team.

In Australia, not all girls get the chance to participate in sports such as netball. Approximately 17 per cent of all children live below the poverty line, and that particular fact directly impacts on young women's ability to play sport. Their families cannot afford the sports fees, to buy uniforms and to travel to and from competition.

We know that participating in sport breaks down barriers, challenges us as individuals and teaches us many lessons. We know that research shows that participating in sport ensures that people, particularly young women, build their self-confidence and their resilience. So the lack of engagement has a significant impact on young women's growth and development.

Netball Australia, cognisant of that, has developed a program to engage participation in sport, particularly netball, from that low socioeconomic group. It is called the Confident Girls program. It is a grassroots fundraising campaign of the Netball Foundation, which aims to help women and girls achieve their full potential both on and off the netball court. It has already supported 10,000 girls through community netball programs since it was founded in 2015.

The program seeks to raise a significant amount of money to do exactly what we were talking about—purchasing uniforms, paying the local sporting club fees et cetera—to connect these young women to not only the sport itself but other young women, so that they can develop friendships. As we know, sport is a powerful vehicle for social inclusion, addresses at-risk behaviour, obesity, self-confidence et cetera and develops friendships.

I just want to mention our parliamentary netball team. We have become friends. For one hour a week we come together from across the Senate, across the House of Representatives and across parties. We yell; we scream; and we become very, very human on the netball court—and I hope we take out the press gallery tomorrow morning, but we will leave that for tomorrow morning.

We are not from the Greens. We are not Liberals. We are not the ALP. We are not the Nationals. We are just women coming together for one hour a week to enjoy something we love.

But, in the spirit of our Anzacs, last year we instigated a program with the parliamentary team from New Zealand to play for what is known as the Diggeress Cup. It is actually this massive silver cup. The Parly Ferns bring it over every year; they take it back, unfortunately, every year. We do have to work a bit on our skills. We went down 18-7. Maybe, we need to get some Diamonds on our team—and some Diamonds into our parliament, seeing what they have been able to do with their Ferns!

The highlight, though, I must say, was beating the New South Wales parliamentarians. Losing to them would have been too much to bear.

But what we did do—and this is the more powerful thing, I think, that we have been able to achieve through the relationships that we have built through sport in our own parliament but also across the Tasman with the New Zealand parliamentary team—is decide to focus on using our sport and our participation to help disadvantaged women in both of our countries and, indeed, in the South Pacific. We have donated money and, importantly, committed individually and as teams to use our roles as leaders and as those who love netball to encourage more participants over coming years.

I would like to thank my team—my co-captain, Jo Ryan, Jenny McAllister, Sharon Claydon, Sarah Hanson-Young and Nicolle Flint for showing up and doing our very, very best for our parliament and for our country. I would also like to thank our sponsors and the New Zealand team, led by Minister Louise Upston and the Labour Party's Louisa Wall. We are very much looking forward to a rematch.