Dear City of Moonee Valley - girls play sport too!

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Girls in Moonee Valley need facilities to play netball and basketball through the funding of: 

  • a 4-court indoor stadium for multi-use – netball and basketball / “high ball” purpose
  •  a minimum of 24 outdoor, lit, competition compliant courts for netball  
  • both with supporting amenity – toilets, change rooms, first aid and umpires rooms and admin/meeting facilities

Moonee Valley City Council's “Sports Development Plan 2014-23” lists netball and basketball as the top 2 "team" sports by participation yet there are a paucity of facilities for these sports in Moonee Valley.

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OK it’s a provocative topic.    Of course, everyone knows that girls play sport …

Don’t they? 

Being a father of 2 girls, brother to 2 sisters and spouse to a tennis, lawn bowls playing maniac woman I definitely know that girls play sport!  I am also a sport tragic, having played just about everything all of my younger life – footy, cricket, tennis, basketball, rugby etc.  I am still active, hauling my old, large frame around and staying involved in organised sport in other ways – committees, coaching, reconciling bank statements, emptying bins (probably what I’m best at..) etc.    

FULL DISCLOSURE – I’m the current President of Essendon District Netball Association (1200 players – 3000 members) and former committee member at Aberfeldie Jets Basketball Club during its growth from 35 teams to 95 teams.   I already admitted to being a tragic OK!

I also love living in Moonee Valley and will be referring to it and our local council a lot.  For efficiency’s sake, from here out I’m going to refer to Moonee Valley City Council as “MVCC” and Moonee Valley as “MV”.

OK.   Where were we?

When my girls started in sport years ago, I was delighted.  That they settled on “big” participation sports for girls was even better (we had tried of plenty of sports by that stage):

  • Netball - Moonee Valley’s highest participation team sport according to Moonee Valley’s “Sports Development Plan 2014-23” and easily the dominant participation club sport for Australian girls.
  • Basketball – Moonee Valley’s #2 highest participation team sport (as per the above plan) and the 3rd largest girls' participation team sport Australia wide.

To be honest, I didn’t know the numbers or cared to.  I just wanted my daughters to enjoy themselves and really engage with the sports now and hopefully, in the future.  I knew all the valuable stuff sport could bring and wanted it for them.   My rational self (he makes an occasional appearance!)  felt good that my girls would have plenty of playing options with these “marquee” girl sports in our local area.  There were (are) lots of clubs involved in both sports and they would be able to make friends, learn life lessons, team and community values and be healthy!   What more could you want for your child??

However, what I found was that despite big participation numbers and enthusiastic organisers, the facilities for girls sports were nothing like I’d taken for granted in my male sporting life…

Where were the Club Houses, change rooms, light towers, canteens, toilets, first aid/umpires rooms!!??   I’d seen plenty of these facilities all over Moonee Valley so where were the facilities serving my (any) girls’ sport?    What had I missed when getting my girls involved in sport in Moonee Valley?   It didn’t look or feel anything like the same playing field...

What I also learnt was that to play mid week, night netball, most of our girls/women had to travel outside of Moonee Valley (of our 3,000 local netballers, more than half don't play in Moonee Valley). We don’t have lit, competition compliant netball courts (literally zero in Moonee Valley) and no indoor stadiums at all.  Full competition netball is played in one venue in Moonee Valley, the 8 courts at Aberfeldie Primary School which are unlit.  Mid week, social, flexible playing models are out of the question, let alone flexible access for training. Compare this to our neighbours in City of Moreland with 20 lit, compliant netball courts.  (At this stage, I acknowledge MVCC's redeveloping the courts at Aberfeldie Primary in 2014.  Since this time, we have seen a 25% jump in netball participation at the local competition.   There weren't any more courts than previous and without lights, no extra playing opportunity.  You can credit the increase to a netball community bump in pride and profile from just having better quality courts to play on.)   Other note - the photo above is taken at Riverside Golf and Tennis Centre on non-compliant netball courts!  

As for basketball, all suitable, local school gyms are fully utilised for training midweek.  This is now capping our club numbers - waiting lists are growing - there aren't enough places to train.  This affects girls AND boys.  With a lack of suitable local venues for match play, the vast majority of our players travel outside of Moonee Valley to compete on Saturdays.  For a big club like the Aberfeldie Jets for example, this means of their approx 900 players (girls and boys) and families, the majority are in the car and out to venues at Caroline Springs, Derrimut, Keilor, Sydenham, Taylors Lakes etc.  The Calder Freeway is busy on Saturdays with Moonee Valley basketballers!

Did local government leaders know that this was going on?  

Did they know that girls play sport too?

Well that question may be harder to answer in the historical context of MVCC support for girls sporting facilities.  Here’s some background info: (all of the below referenced documents can be found at MVCC’s website):

1.       MVCC’s “Health and Well Being Plan 2017-21 ” (a collection of planning documents) specifies “Women and Girls” as a priority group for all health and well-being planning and calls out “Gender equity and prevention of violence against women” as a key priority (ref: The “Municipal Plan").  To clarify, the “Women’s Health West – Moonee Valley Gender Fact Sheet” defines Gender Equity:

“Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men with the aim of achieving equal outcomes for all. To ensure fairness, measures are needed to compensate for historical and social disadvantage that have prevented women from operating on a level playing field with men”

OK – that’s a good start, MVCC’s planning is clear on the need to address historical imbalance in health and well-being program/policy.

2.       So what is in place currently?  MVCC recently published its draft “Community Facilities Policy and Implementation Plan”.   The Plan outlines that there are 16 sporting pavilions under its seasonal management (i.e. MVCC pavilions being used by local sporting clubs).   Not included in these are the 12+ pavilions residing on MVCC land leases and effectively part of the MVCC landscape of pavilions and community sports assets – let’s say conservatively 25+ sporting club facilities….  How many of these are accessed directly by the “big” participation girls sports (netball/basketball)?    ZERO.   OK, that’s not so good! 

3.       What’s on the way?  MVCC’s recently released draft “Community Facilities Policy and Implementation Plan” is a comprehensive breakdown of all MVCC facilities and planning for projects upcoming over the immediate to long term.  This is where you go when you want to see what’s on the horizon for local projects.   Tellingly, it does not specify any such prioritisation for Gender Equity or Women and Girls as a priority group as mentioned in the above Health planning….    

Hmmm…. that might explain some things….. 

Sadly, it seems that despite clear public sentiment and high-level policy statements, actual funding to where the largest groups of sporting females can be impacted is not a priority after all?    Something needs to change.

I’m urging MVCC – specifically Councillors Byrne, Cusack, Gauci Maurici, Lawrence, Marshall, Nation, Sharpe, Sipek and Surace - to finally take action in making an impact where it will be most felt by the sporting girls of Moonee Valley (remember the participation rates!!).    The projects that need MVCC’s immedidate (Budget 2018/2019) commitment are:

  • a 4-court indoor stadium for multi-use – netball and basketball - “high ball” purpose
  • a minimum of 24 outdoor, lit, competition compliant courts for netball 
  • both with supporting amenity – toilets, change rooms, first aid and umpires rooms and admin/meeting facilities

These facilities will go a long way to ensuring that our girls (and boys) will have places to play netball and basketball here in Moonee Valley.    They won’t address the historical imbalance of funding on gender lines but it’s a good start.. 

Our girls need a fair go to live a sporting, healthy life.   Girls, just like our boys, love playing sport.  Its time we starting giving our girls every opportunity to do so.