Men As Allies for Gender Equality in Gippsland's Community Sports

The Changing Gippsland’s Game Professional Network recognised a unique opportunity to conduct place-based research aimed at benefiting sports clubs across Gippsland and the wider Victorian sports community. Through surveys and workshops conducted across the region, this research project aimed to explore how men can provide better support to women and girls in community sports. The outcome of this effort is the “Change Our Game” resource, officially launched at Sport and Recreation Victoria’s “Men As Allies for Gender Equality in Sport” event held in Melbourne in June 2023.

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The Story of Changing Gippsland’s Game:

Established in 2018 with funding from Change Our Game through a Workforce Development Grant, the Changing Gippsland’s Game network comprises dedicated women from various sectors of community sports across Gippsland. These women represent State Sporting Associations, Sport and Recreation Victoria (SRV), GippSport, and Local Government.

Throughout their quarterly meetings, a recurring theme emerged: “What can we do to make a difference in Gippsland?”
It became evident that men were notably absent from these discussions, leaving the responsibility for gender equality advocacy predominantly on women’s shoulders.

Given GippSport’s involvement in gender equality initiatives within male-dominated environments, the organization sought ways to enhance its impact in these spaces. An existing partnership with Dr. Erica Randle, Senior Research Fellow at La Trobe University’s Centre for Sport and Social Impact, led to the collaborative submission of a Change Our Game Research Grant application.

The inclusion of an academic partner was pivotal, providing access to evidence-based research—a valuable resource often lacking in their work. Moreover, this partnership presented a significant capacity-building opportunity for both GippSport staff and the network members, fostering a culture of continuous learning.

The Changing Gippsland’s Game network played a crucial role throughout the research process, assisting in participant recruitment for surveys and workshops, as well as testing research findings.

The Challenge of Gender Equality Work in Gippsland Without Regional Research:

A critical component of this project was conducting a comprehensive literature review to assess prior efforts in the field of gender equality. This revealed limited existing data, underscoring the industry’s eagerness to improve and support gender equality initiatives.

The research journey began with a Gippsland-wide survey, followed by a state-wide survey to assess behaviors conducive to men’s progress on their gender equality journey. Subsequently, two workshops were held in Gippsland, fostering discussions on the research findings.

During these Men As Allies workshops, an attendee, a primary school teacher responsible for teaching the Respectful Relationships curriculum, shared a transformative insight—he had never considered watching women’s sports alongside men’s with his students. Notably, practical examples emerged as crucial elements, such as having male facilitators, thoughtful flyer content and imagery, and a diverse range of evidence to guide men along their journey. Identifying allies and one-by-one progress were also deemed essential.

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Simple actions like “watching women and girls play sports” were identified as effective strategies for individuals and clubs to pursue—easy wins with substantial impact.

Bringing it all together:

This research culminated in the development of the “Men As Allies for Gender Equality” resource, a Change Our Game best practice guide for supporting women and girls in Gippsland’s sports community. Accompanied by the formal research report and articles prepared by La Trobe University, this resource serves as a valuable tool for initiating change.

The first step involves helping men genuinely understand the gender gap and the lived experience of women and girls in community sports. A holistic approach encourages men to challenge traditional male stereotypes, recognize privilege, and actively amplify women’s voices in sporting clubs, both as coaches and officials.

This significant 18-month endeavor has already made an industry-wide impact, with the key findings integrated into current and future Orange Rounds. Clubs like Phillip Island Soccer Club have already incorporated practical suggestions for male ally behaviors into their educational sessions. The research’s influence is set to expand with plans for additional training opportunities in Gippsland and its integration into all gender equality initiatives at GippSport and its program partners.

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GippSport acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we live and work, The Bunurong Peoples, Gunaikurnai Peoples and other traditional owner groups of the Gippsland/East Gippsland Region.  We recognise their ongoing connection to the land, waters and community, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and the ongoing living culture of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people.

GippSport is committed to making a positive contribution to the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and working in solidarity towards reconciliation.

GippSport – Gippsland Sports Assembly Inc.
PO Box 741, Traralgon, VIC, Australia 3844
Traralgon Sports Stadium, Catterick Cres, Traralgon