Sport Australia’s progress against its purpose in 2017–18 was achieved in the context of an organisation-wide strategic review. As a result of the review, Sport Australia has broadened its entity purpose. Our new purpose is to contribute to the health and wellbeing of Australians and making communities stronger through sport and physical activity. A series of projects were identified during the strategic review to enable the delivery of the new Sport Australia strategy, all contributing to the transformation of Sport Australia’s business. At the entity level, the resulting organisational restructure has been a significant part of the work program and is designed to position Sport Australia to achieve the best outcomes for all Australians.
Sport Australia has continued to invest in sports through targeted funding across high performance, participation and capability building. In 2017–18, a total of $135.7 million was distributed to NSOs and a further $1.4 million to NSODs. This investment is significant and is targeted to those organisations that can best help Sport Australia to achieve outcomes in both high performance and participation. Sport Australia also delivers targeted funding programs such as Women Leaders in Sport, an Australian Government initiative which provides development opportunities and grants for women to reach their potential in the sports industry. Over 300 women from 37 sports across Australia benefited from the 2017–18 Women Leaders in Sport program.
In high performance, the organisational transformation has included the transition of AIS expertise out to the sport sector, enabling the AIS to focus on areas that are unique and can give Australian sport a competitive edge, such as applied technology and innovation, and athlete wellbeing and engagement. In 2017–18, the AIS developed and launched an enhanced athlete wellbeing strategy, and in June 2018 hosted the highly successful Athlete Wellbeing Summit.
With over 200 attendees—including professional and non-professional sports, current and former athletes, wellbeing practitioners, system and network partners—the summit provided the opportunity for delegates to contribute their ideas to guide a national action plan for athlete wellbeing. This focus recognises the importance that wellbeing and engagement play in the ability of Australian athletes to succeed at international level, and as they transition out of sport and into their communities at the end of their careers.
During 2017–18, Australian athletes succeeded on the world stage with a highly successful Commonwealth Games. In addition to Australia’s medal results, the broader community connection with the Games was evident throughout the competition, with many stories of sporting achievement shared and celebrated with the Australian public, inspiring and contributing to a sense of national pride. The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games showed the high level of competition that Australia faces, with more athletes, more countries and ever-intensifying levels of performance recorded.
In participation, AusPlay statistics have shown that more Australians are playing sport, with increases across all participation frequencies recorded since 2016 for both adults and children. However, our figures show that less than half (42.9 per cent) of Australians participate at least once per week, and only 21.5 per cent participate three times a week. As part of our new strategy Sport Australia is looking at ways to directly engage with the Australian public to encourage all Australians to get active.
For young Australians, Sport Australia’s Sporting Schools program continued to be highly successful in 2017–18, enabling more children and young people to play sport and participate in physical activity. The program was rolled out to secondary schools in 2017–18 and demonstrated Sport Australia’s achievement in meeting our purpose to get more Australians physically active.
Preliminary longitudinal data shows that as a direct result of Sporting Schools, up to 25 per cent of participating children and their parents are now more aware of opportunities to participate in community sports. However, it is important to note that even with the positive influence that Sporting Schools is having on the school environment, children, and the sport sector, there are a significant number of barriers that can prevent students who participate in a school-based program from transitioning into a community-based program. The 2017 Sporting Schools evaluation found that cost and parent time were perceived to be the most significant barriers to sport participation in all communities.
Sport Australia hosted a series of workshops to gather insights into community sport infrastructure, and as a result delivered the Value of Community Sport Infrastructure report, in conjunction with KPMG and La Trobe University. This project, to progress national collaboration on Australia’s sports infrastructure, received support from state departments of sport and recreation, NSOs, national peak planning bodies and key local government stakeholders, and helped to engage the industry and inform the Community Sport Infrastructure grants program announced by the Minister as a part of the 2018–19 Budget. This funding will allow Sport Australia to continue its efforts in infrastructure, which Sport Australia views as a key element in making communities stronger through sport and physical activity.
Sport Australia continued to focus on the capability of the sports industry and strengthening Australian sports, as without a robust sports industry we cannot achieve high performance or participation objectives. Sport.Scan showed there were improvements in organisational capability of the top 23 funded NSOs, particularly the top seven sports, and in high performance there was positive progress against high performance capability, with no sports receiving an underperforming rating in 2017–18. Nationally, media attention on gender equality in sport supported Sport Australia capability development projects targeting women in sport, which included a focus on increasing the number of women on NSO boards and in leadership positions, increasing the number of women in high performance coaching and leadership roles, increasing media coverage and commercial opportunities for women in sport, and reducing barriers to participation for women. Since the introduction in 2013 of a Sport Australia requirement for NSOs to have a minimum of 40 per cent of women on their boards, female representation has risen from a 27 per cent average to a 38 per cent average across the top 23 funded NSOs.
In 2017–18, Sport Australia’s progress against its purposes was impacted by the development of Sport 2030, which is the Australian Government’s plan to reshape Australian sport and build a healthier, more physically active nation. The development of Sport 2030 was announced by the Minister for Sport in May 2017 and Sport Australia played a significant role in the national consultation process. Going forward, Sport 2030 will help inform our efforts to increase participation in sports and improve the health and wellbeing of Australians through physical activity.