| Key takeouts
- There are five key areas for action that create welcoming and inclusive environments:
- Champions of change are active
- Expectations about behaviour are met
- Facilities and activities are accessible
- Everyone participates
- Commitment through ongoing action
- Key to success across sport is data collection, being able to show real evidence of change through consistent data collection
- Changing cultures, social norms and behaviours to make sporting organisations more welcoming and inclusive is a long term process
- Fear of judgement is a major barrier to womens participation in physical activity
Thank you Paul for the introduction and hi everyone. I’d just like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we’re meeting today and pay my respect to elders past and present and to acknowledge any elders who are in the room today.
As Paul mentioned, I’m from Vic Health. The people who don’t know us we’re the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation so really health and wellbeing is our business. Sport is a setting that we do a lot of work in because it has many great health benefits from a physical activity participation point of view but also because it’s a great setting to work with people around a whole range of other risk and protective factors for health like healthy eating, social connection, reducing harmful alcohol use. There’s a whole range of ways that we work with sport.
The other thing I wanted to say about Vic Health is we have a real focus on health equity and that’s really very much aligned to the focus of today’s discussion and I guess what we mean by that is in all the programming work and all the investment we do we make a really conscious effort to think about how do we make sure the benefits are reaching the communities who are experiencing health inequalities when compared to the rest of the Victorian population so making sure that we’re benefiting everybody but we’re benefiting those communities who need more assistance to level up to the rest of the population more and that’s really where our focus is across a whole range of work.
So I’m just going to talk today about a range of Vic Health work. I know the presentations I heard before, there has been some quite specific focuses on particular population groups, on particular population segments. I’m going to take it up a level and talk about a range of work we’re doing. Some people in the room will know this better than I do because probably you’ve been partnering with us on this fantastic work. I’ve also got a couple of my colleagues in the room today who I wanted to just give a shout out to because they also know this work probably much better than I do.
So when we think about at Vic Health how do we make sure our work is reaching where we want it to reach, that we’re delivering benefits where they’re needed? We start by understanding the issues that we’re trying to address. In the case of growing diverse participation in sport we start by thinking about general trends in sport and physical activity participation and then we dig deeper to think about what’s going on for particular population segments and particular priority population groups. I’m sure you’ll know a lot of this information so I’m just going to very briefly cover off.
We know from our Vic Health Indicators Survey, which is a big population survey across the State that one in five Victorian adults are doing no physical activity every week and that three out of five are not getting enough physical activity to benefit their health. We know that there is an increasing preference for non-organised physical activity particularly as people get older. This means that the demand for more social, flexible non-competitive ways of participating in sport and physical activity are also increasing and our Vic Health Indicators Survey showed that 10% of Victorian adults participate in physical activity by an organised sports club or association so 90% of the Victorian adult population aren’t currently engaged in a formal way with a sporting body so there’s a lot of room for us to move there.
We know that children are playing organised sport in relatively good numbers but they’re dropping out as they hit adolescence so there’s a real question about how do we retain young people in sport as they get older? We also know that sport participation rates for women and girls in community sports club are far less than our male counterparts, about half. It’s a big gap and it’s receiving significant attention across the State and also in Vic Health work.
So at the heart of success in providing participation options that meet the needs of diverse communities is really knowing your customer and I know people have talked about this today. We’ve done some research that looked across five life stages and identified some common themes and some unique attributes relating to people’s attitudes, motivations and barriers to physical activity. We spoke to young people aged 12 to 17, to young adults aged 18 to 24, to people aged over 25 with no children, with parents and with retirees and you can see some of the common themes that run across all of those five life stages up on the screen, things like knowing the benefits of activity are not enough, the importance of family modelling or family participation, winter being a major barrier, we know that, we’ve just come out of it. Having physical activity as part of the must do really gives it importance and prominence. It’s meant to say there I think adding one more session feels possible. Weekly routine is critical. The key role of workplaces and also life or routine changes being a critical window for making change in people’s physical activity participation levels.
You can access resources we’ve got online called Physical Activity across life stages on the Vic Health website and we really encourage you to go and have a look, a much deeper look at what’s going on for each of those particular life stages. It is important to note though that kind of age or stage of life is just one way to think about how to group people. Obviously we’re complex beings. We need to think about other factors when we’re considering inclusive participation such as cultural background, disability, gender, socioeconomic status, geographic location and just that recognition that people don’t fit into a box and so let’s think about that. We need to think about complexity as we’re dealing with how to make sure that all of our programs and offerings are going to work for our diverse communities.
A key premise of the work we do in health promotion is that we can create environments that promote health. We can also create environments that are terrible for health. In the case of growing diverse participation in sport there’s not a great value in just understanding the individual level barriers and drivers of participation, what’s going on for people. We need to also do the work to ensure that our sporting environments are welcoming, inclusive and supportive places for people who want to spend their time.
Vic Health developed two programs, Healthy Sporting Environments, which from now are called HSE and the State Sporting Association Participation Program, which I’ll now call SSAPP to save some time, which ran between 2011 and 2014 and I’m sure some people in the room will have been involved in those programs. They had a specific focus on creating welcoming and inclusive healthy sporting environments and they really tested a new way of working both with State sporting associations, regional sporting associations and community sports clubs with an emphasis on organisational development and organisational practice to see how sport could be more welcoming, inclusive and healthy.
We focused on four priority population groups where participation was particularly low; Aboriginal people, culturally diverse communities, people with a disability and women and girls. Through those programs we developed and tested a toolkit called everyone wins, which identified five key areas for action that could be addressed to help clubs create welcoming and inclusive environments. Those five areas were:
1. Champions of change are active
2. Expectations about behaviour are met
3. Facilities and activities are accessible
4. Everyone participates
5. Commitment through ongoing action
The toolkit also outlined three different levels of activity that clubs could be working at recognising that some would be starting from a low base and some had done work in this area already and that clubs had different capacities, so some could really use their resources to stretch far and make a big difference and some had to take a slower, more steady approach, but clubs could move up the levels to be your club would welcome, involve and then value everyone as you stepped up through everyone wins.
Through SSAPP in particular we identified common principles of working with our priority population groups, which you can see on the screen there. They are leadership, collaboration, process and policies, monitoring and evaluation and sustainability and really they’re the common issues that underpinned successful approaches in SSA as working to meet their organisations and their sports more welcoming and inclusive.
So to give you a sense of what that looks like in practice in the real world to make it a bit more real, Cycling Victoria and BMX Victoria focused through SSAPP on creating more welcoming and inclusive environments for women and girls in their sports. They talked about a key achievement being the establishment of equal prize money for male and female competition. They kind of got that tested and then it got taken on by organizers and it’s become the standard in racing competition whereas previously women would receive a very small fraction of what the male winners would for cycling competitions and I think we have to think about what message that sent to women about what their place was in cycling competitions and making that change. It started to give them a sense of ‘we are welcome here. We are wanted. This is where we belong’.
In the third year of SSAPP both Cycling and BMX were asked what had been the most significant changes within their respective SSAs. They identified increased participation of females in both sports that were measured through change in the number of members and also registration for events. They identified a shift in both organisations’ strategies towards inclusion that there was a deeper sense of what inclusion meant and a real emphasis on making sure that there was a difference in those clubs for women and girls and also increased attention on ensuring sustainability of the changes that had occurred within the SSAs through the SSAPP program. So it wasn’t just this is a three-year funding project. We’ll get the money from Vic Health, we’ll make the change and then we’ll go back to normal. This was about cultural change in those organisations and they were thinking about how to maintain it and how to improve it well past the funding.
Key success factors that Cycling and BMX identified for getting that level of change there in their sports was consistent data collection on participation numbers so they could really use that as evidence to show the change that was happening from their activities to their Board and to their CEO. They weren’t just good stories, they were hard numbers to show that this is working for women and girls in our sports. Also the driver of their Champions of Change, which included their Board and their CEO, who were both enthusiastic about increasing opportunities for women because they understood it was good for their business. They wanted more people participating in their sports and women were coming to the party and giving them those numbers. They also thought it was really important that they’d done a survey of their members to find out what practically they could do to create more welcoming environments for women in their sport and that really gave them some great information.
Vic Health and the partners that we worked with through SSAPP and HSE for those few years that the programs were running learnt a lot it’s fair to say, you know, some things worked and some things didn’t but what we’ve been doing more recently is pulling together the learnings plus the resources that we developed through those programs and working with Vic Sport to make them available to anybody who’s interested in doing work with those population groups to make their own sports more inclusive and welcoming so very soon from the Vic Sport website you’ll be able to get access to tips, principles, templates, guidelines and other resources, very practical resources to take back to your own sport and think about how to apply them.
Just a last point on that slide there is a reminder that changing cultures, social norms and behaviours to make sporting organisations and any organisation more welcoming and inclusive is a long term process and really that’s what we learnt and was reinforced through SSAPP and HSE that in some cases there were big leaps made forward, in some cases it was slow and steady but was really starting a cultural change process.
I just want to finish today by talking about some of our current work focused on gender equality in sport. Our approach at the moment recognises the importance of working to create change in a number of areas simultaneously to really support increased particular by women and girls and it’s important to say we’ve got an emphasis on women and girls who are currently not active or not very active and diverse women so this isn’t about just getting more women who are already active doing more of it but really trying to change the makeup of sport so that different women are participating.
So what we’re doing that you can see on the screen is working to support government and organisations to improve sport policy and practice for gender equality and that really builds on that previous work that we’d done through SSAPP and HSE where we got a good sense of what’s working in organisations to change their practice. We’re also working with our sports partners and with the media to increase the profile of women’s sport in the community and to change attitudes about the place of women in sport, to really start a conversation about what is our role in sport.
We’re also creating the opportunities for women and girls to participate so on the ground programs and opportunities where people can go in and play whatever it is that they want to have a go at and that’s really responding to the insights we have about barriers to participation so important to understand what women want, what works for them and what doesn’t and then how do we make sure that we’re offering those participation opportunities.
We’re also getting ready to kick off a major campaign in 2018 called This Girl Can. The original campaign was run by Sport England and was successful in inspiring 2.8 million women and girls to get active in the UK and Vic Health has now licensed the campaign from Sport England and we’re in the process now of creating our own local version of This Girl Can. The campaign responds to research that identifies fear of judgment as a major barrier to women’s activity and that fear of judgment relates to three specific issues. Women fear being judged about their appearance, the way they look when they’re doing physical activity, they’re worried about being judged about their ability particularly women who were not active or ready and feel like they’re not coordinated enough, they’re not fit enough to get out and have a go. They’re also worried about being judged about what people think about their priorities so as an example if women are participating in sport are people judging them as being a bad mother because they’re prioritizing their own health and wellbeing over looking after their kids. They’re real fears and they’re the things that are stopping many women being active and so what This Girl Can does is it features real women of all ages, sizes, cultural backgrounds, abilities, fitness levels, getting active in ways that challenge attitudes about what women can or should be doing in physical activity and what they should look like when they’re being active so it really is one of those things where all types of women can watch that campaign and see someone who’s a bit like them and think “oh, maybe I can do it and be willing to get out and have a go”.
It’s also really important that when those women get out and have a go that we’ve got sports, we’ve got fitness centres, we’ve got parks, we’ve got all those places where women who look like them are already out there being active and that they feel supported to go, come back after the first try and make it part of their daily routine.
If you haven’t seen the UK ad I’d encourage you to Google it. It’s fantastic. It’s got a great Missy Elliott sound track. It’s really energetic and we’re working out now how do we make our own version that is that exciting and energetic and gets people, women particularly excited about getting out there and having a go.
I think in Victoria we’re increasingly creating environments that support diverse women to be active and what we hope from This Girl Can is that we’re going to get this real wave of increasing demand for women who are looking for different options who are demanding action and really pushing this social change.
Thanks for the opportunity to be part of the conversation today.