There is no doubt Victoria is undergoing significant change. We are facing the challenges of population growth, becoming more diverse as well as viewing the evolution of an ageing population. We are observing movement to new growth areas; the balance is shifting between urban, rural and regional communities, affecting lifestyle choices and leisure time.

Victorians are becoming less active, increasingly unhealthy and finding it more difficult to connect with their communities. This is where sport plays such an important role in providing the “social glue” of community connectedness. However it is important for us to do more to have Victorians participating in physical activity on a regular basis, making better use of our sporting facilities and joining our sporting clubs and teams. Many of our sporting clubs in Regional Victoria are struggling for numbers on the playing field and finding it increasingly difficult to retain and obtain volunteers.

Recently Vicsport, which is the peak body for community sport and recreation in Victoria, conducted a retreat which enabled State Sporting Associations and Regional Sports Assemblies to come together in an effort to determine the key priorities for the future of Victorian sport. Vicsport is producing a policy agenda which will outline the priorities and policy initiatives to put to the next State Government. This will be available very soon.

The policy agenda will refer to the following priorities:

Whole – of – government investment. Broaden the areas of government investment in both programming and facilities in order to maximize the health, social and community benefits of sport and active recreation participation.

Volunteering and organizational capacity. Direct long term support for sport and active recreation volunteers and organizations to respond to Victorian’s changing participation needs.

Improving facility access for community sporting organizations. Prioritize regular and affordable access for community sport and active recreation organizations through facility funding schemes.

Subsidize participation for young people where cost is a barrier. Strengthen community clubs thorough a targeted subsidy scheme.

A series of suggested policy initiatives will sit alongside each priority. Vicsport is to be commended for taking a proactive position in this important area and will seek to influence current parliamentarians and State election candidates to seriously consider the significant role sport and recreation plays in the Victorian community.

The sport and active recreation sector, including Regional Sports Assemblies like GippSport, is looking forward to working with the next State Government to maximize the community benefits of regular participation in organized sport and active recreation.