The Governor General, Quentin Bryce, opened the Asia Pacific World Sport and Women (APWSW) conference in Melbourne on Monday, by congratulating Australia’s latest champions, the Southern Stars T20 cricket team, and noting that the news was tucked eight pages into the newspaper.
The team beat England in Sri Lanka on Sunday night in the final of the world T20 championship.
Bryce said women and sport is a “vitally important issue” from a health, social and cultural perspective.
She said it was concerning that too many girls give up sport in early teenage years. She cited United Nations research that shows girls who play sport are more likely to complete schooling and have healthier and happier lives.
She also complimented long time sports writer, Rebecca Wilson, for her role in promoting women and sport.
The Governor-General was followed by leading demographer, Bernard Salt, who said that Australia of the past decade is very different from Australia of the next decade.
He said Australia’s culture is a “fusion culture”. The biggest shifts in ethnic mix in the past five years have been in people from India (100%), China (54%) and The Philippines (40%) while traditional migrant sources, such as England and New Zealand are flatlining.
Salt said this also has an enormous impact on professional and community sport in terms of participants, fans, television audiences and sporting facilities. He also said the major strategic focus of national sporting organisations should be the population surge currently evident in 5-9 year olds, 30-34 year old parents and 65-69 year old active grandparents.
Salt said the highest levels of discretionary spending in the community occur at ages 27 and 55 which he says also has an impact on sporting products and offerings. He said this is in part illustrated by the three fastest growing sports in the last sport of Yoga (136%), Indoor Football (120%) and Aerobics/fitness (99%).
He said sport not only delivers long term health benefits but social resilience, with the 2011 Census showing 20% of the Australian population volunteered in the previous year.
“A lot of this voluntary activity is in sport, and is one of the biggest arguments for sport tapping into government funding support.
“Sport delivers social inclusion and, importantly, social resilience. It builds connectivity in society.”