Shining a spotlight on West Gippsland women and girls in soccer

In the lead-up to season 2022, soccer clubs in Baw Baw Shire teamed up to deliver a free local event to promote, support, educate and showcase women and girls’ participation in West Gippsland.

The fun-filled festival provided opportunities to meet local clubs, have a kick and learn more about where and how women and girls of all ages could participate as players, coaches, referees and volunteers.

The event tied into Football Victoria’s Female Football February initiative and was facilitated by funding from the Victorian Government and Baw Baw Shire Council.

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In 2021, Warragul United Soccer Club secured funding through a Change Our Game Community Activation Grant and a Baw Baw Shire Council Community Grant to continue their work increasing opportunities for women and girls. 

The club engaged GippSport Community Solutions to coordinate an event, which over time – and in no small part due to the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions – evolved from an education-focused initiative to a broader showcase and celebration of women and girls’ participation.

The West Gippsland Female Football Festival was co-hosted by WUSC and fellow local clubs Drouin Dragons Soccer Club, Trafalgar Victory Football Club, Gippsland Football Club and Latrobe United Women’s Football Club. After being rescheduled three times, the eventual date was able to be aligned with Football Victoria’s Female Football February initiative, which served as a valuable partnership and marketing opportunity for all parties.

The event took place at the recently redeveloped facility at Warragul’s Baxter Park, providing attendees with an opportunity to participate in football activities on a state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface. Activities were coordinated by leading Gippsland football coaches Anouk Meereboer and Beth Milkins, with approximately 40 participants of various ages and abilities taking part.

Change Our Game Ambassador Monique Hanley, former Matildas player Jane Oakley and Football Victoria’s Women and Girls Manager Andrea Swain were among the special guests on the day, sharing their experiences in sport and gender equality. An exhibition match between National Premier League Women’s sides Southern United and Bayside United immediately followed the festivities to further showcase women’s soccer.


The West Gippsland Female Football Festival provided a great example of how a united approach can help grow women and girls’ sport. Five separate clubs pooled resources and worked together to deliver the event and received considerable support from their state sporting association.

In addition to players and parents, there were female coaches, administrators, committee members and even an accredited referee among those in attendance, in a clear indication of the significant involvement and contribution women and girls have in, and make to, soccer in West Gippsland.

The considerable funding obtained enabled the host clubs to outsource some event coordination to GippSport Community Solutions, reducing the burden on volunteers and maximising the potential scale of the event.

The vibe on the day was extremely positive, from the fun-focused on-pitch activities to the informal conversations between partners, guests and other key stakeholders. This was complemented by the presence of TRFM, which, in addition to promotion in the lead up to the event, provided music and conducted interviews and live crosses throughout. This helped increase the reach, visibility and community feel of the event.


While the event achieved its goals of promoting and supporting women and girls’ soccer participation, it was not without challenges in terms of execution and legacy.

The state-of-the-art pitch at Baxter Park provided an elite platform to inspire and showcase participants, but the broader site and its facilities had limitations. The positioning of the pitch in relation to the social rooms and amenities – at either end of a steep hill – led to an awkward separation of on-pitch and off-pitch sessions, which disproportionately impacted participation in the latter. The layout may also have been intimidating for less experienced and confident participants and the significant heat of the day may have contributed to some reluctance of participants to fully engage in the sessions. A shorter event may have lessened this. Community perception of the facility as being home to a pathway club may also have been seen as a barrier for some. 

With those factors in mind, attendance was slightly lower than hoped, which may have been further impacted by ongoing COVID concerns and a disjointed registration process. The timing of the event also meant clubs were limited in their volunteer capacity, an issue that was mostly alleviated by access to paid staff through GippSport, something other events cannot necessarily rely on.

The variation in the capacity of participating clubs to cater to women and girls post-event also highlighted the need for ongoing work and support for the community in this space.

All in all, the West Gippsland Female Football Festival was a success. The event created a platform to showcase, support and inspire women and girls’ participation in soccer in the region and the willingness of key partners – from clubs to local government – to engage and work together was extremely encouraging. The suite of images and vision of women and girls playing soccer provided by event partner Homegrown Design also increased storytelling and marketing opportunities into the future.


As a result of collaboration for the event, three of the participating clubs opened discussions around a potential amalgamation to help address various operational and administrative challenges, including the long-term viability and sustainability of the respective clubs.

Following a formal process, Gippsland United Football Club was formed in late 2022, bringing together Gippsland Football Club, Latrobe United Women’s Football Club and Warragul United Soccer Club as one entity.

One of the key motivations and outcomes of this amalgamation was the survival of LUWFC’s open women’s team, which was in danger of folding due to limited volunteer and financial capacity and significant facility constraints. The amalgamation ensured the region retained two teams in the state league women’s structure and also paved the way for the addition of an under-10 girls’ team, as well as the prospect of an under-15 girls’ team – neither of which existed in season 2022, thereby increasing playing opportunities for girls in the region.

The inaugural board also led to an increase of women in governance roles, with three of the nine positions filled by women, including Vice-President and Secretary, and a new role of Female Football Ambassador. At the time of the amalgamation, there were no women on the Warragul United Soccer Club board.

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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
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