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Five of Australia’s national sporting organisations renew their commitment to prevent violence against women

November 9, 2020 / Our Watch media

The Australian Football League (AFL), Rugby Australia (RA), Netball Australia (NA), Football Federation Australia (FFA) and the National Rugby League (NRL) have today renewed their commitment to working together with Our Watch to stop violence against women before it starts. 

The five national sporting organisations have signed a leadership statement pledging to remain committed to using their collective influence to keep progressing gender equality, diversity and inclusion in their workplaces. 

Our Watch Chief Executive Officer Patty Kinnersly said that while the economic fallout from COVID-19 had had an impact on national sporting organisations, the recovery efforts must prioritise women’s sport and the creation of leadership opportunities for women in sport. 

“Sports leaders set the tone, which is why it is so important they continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to disrespect and violence against women,” Ms Kinnersly said.  

“I applaud the AFL, NRLRugby Australia, FFA, and Netball Australia for taking this important step today. Only together will we be able to turn the dial towards achieving gender equality so we can work towards an Australia that is free from violence against women and their children.”  

The renewed commitment builds on the first joint leadership statement and successive partnership with the AFL, NRL, Netball Australia and Rugby Australia formed in 2016, with the FFA joining in 2018. 

Netball Australia CEO Marne Fechner said that because sport is integral to the Australian way of life it has a tremendous opportunity to use its influence to create positive social change.  

 Netball Australia has had a long-standing vision of empowering women and girls to shine, while enriching and connecting communities and, as the number one participation sport for women and girls in Australia, we have an enormous opportunity to harness the sport’s reach to further educate and change attitudes around violence,” she said. 

“Netball is committed to working alongside Our Watch to ensure that women and girls around Australia know they should expect respect, and that violence against women is not okay in any circumstance.”  

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said the AFL remained focused on continuously improving its capacity to create inclusive, healthy, and safe environments for everyone – players, coaches, umpires, officials, volunteers, and fans. 

“Everyone is welcome in our game and we will continue to work towards ensuring everyone feels included and safe at all levels of Australian Football,” Mr McLachlan said.  

“We know the power of sport in driving change and the AFL is proud to partner with Our Watch in promoting attitudes and instilling behaviours that are respectful to and supportive of women.”  

Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) signature on thleadership statement was indicative of its ongoing commitment to working with Our Watch and other leaders in Australian sport to stamp out sexism and inequalityFFA CEO James Johnson said. 

“We are a global leader in women’s football and are proud of our multicultural origins, its rich history, and diverse and growing football community. Our XI Principles for the future of Australian football demonstrate our commitment to fostering an environment that is safe and inclusive, so our participants feel welcomed and valued,” Mr Johnson said. 

Fair representation of women on boards, committees and in senior administrative roles; the establishment of strong requirements for gender parity and diversity across the game; and enhancing programs to promote a culturally diverse and inclusive game are various measures contemplated by FFA 

Principle X in particular emphasises our intention to anchor women’s football in the continued growth of Australian football, particularly after being granted hosting rights to FIFA’s Women’s World Cup 2023, and to turn Australia into the centre of women’s football in the Asia-Pacific region.”  

Rugby Australia interim Chief Executive Rob Clarke said: “Rugby Australia is steadfast in its ongoing commitment to promoting gender equality and respectful relationships in our broader community.   

“Respect is one of the core values that underpins Rugby in this country, and it should be the same off the field, as it is on the field. We are proud to stand alongside the AFL, NRL, FFA and Netball Australia and commit to furthering this work into the future while also calling on the sporting community to stand with us against violence against women as well as gender inequality.”  

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said sport has a significant role to play in driving social change.  

Our players are role models for many young Australians, and we have a responsibility to send a strong message to the community about the importance of respect for women,’’ Mr Abdo said. 

“This is an important leadership statement. There is no place in our community for disrespect or violence against women. As a game, we will do all we can to have a positive influence in this area. 

“We are proud of the work we do on and off the field. Whether it be our commitment to the NRLW and Women’s State of Origin in a COVID-19 impacted year or our work in community with our Voice Against Violence and In League In Harmony programs which promote and educate respect for women and social cohesion. There’s always more that can be done, and this statement is another positive step.”  

To assist the national sporting organisations to continue to promote and embed gender equality within their organisations, Our Watch has launched its newEquality and Respect in Sport website.  

The Equality and Respect in Sport website houses evidence-based tools and resources specifically designed to meet the needs of national sporting organisations.  

The five national sporting organisations will work with Our Watch to continue to share best practice learnings and build on the work they have started by ensuring internal structures, strategies and policies explicitly promote gender equality to prevent violence against women. 

Joint Leadership Statement

Media contact

Saraya Musovic (saraya.musovic@ourwatch.org.au or 0407 091 383).

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.”

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.

About Our Watch

Our Watch is a national leader in Australia’s work to stop violence against women and their children before it starts. The organisation was created to drive nation-wide change in the practices, norms, and structures that lead to violence against women and children. 

Find out more about our work to end violence against women in Australia.

The evidence
Woman holding baby.