Yarra Ranges Council adopts Eastern regionwide Fair Access Policy

The Wesburn Junior Football Club has been one local sporting club calling to improve its facilities. Picture: ON FILE

By Callum Ludwig

Yarra Ranges councillors have endorsed a new Fair Access Policy at the Tuesday 14 May council meeting.

The Melbourne East Region Sport and Recreation Fair Access Policy has been established across the wider group of councils in the east which includes Knox City Council and Maroondah City Council among others with the aim of improving recreational facilities for women, girls, transgender and gender diverse people.

Chandler Ward Councillor David Eastham spoke to the motion and said he sees it as a piece of a larger puzzle.

“If anyone saw what played out with Knox Football Club, you’ll see that as a society we have a long way to go and whilst a lot of this talks about infrastructure and how to support female participation in sport, there’s clearly also a lot of investment that needs to happen from a social side as well,” he said.

“The state government for this were not prescriptive in what the Fair Access Policy needed to be and I think for us that has worked out very much to our advantage, we just need to make sure that the work that we do as Council is relevant to local clubs.”

Adopting the mandated Fair Access Policy also opens up opportunities for Councils to access State Government funding avenues to upgrade facilities from 1 July 2024.

Cr Eastham said he also thinks taking an Eastern Region approach was a great move.

“Many of the sporting leagues and associations out here cross the local government boundaries, the Ringwood and District Cricket Association, Football Victoria, Eastern Football Netball League and so on, they aren’t just sitting within one municipality, a lot of them do operate across the entire Eastern Region,” he said.

“There’s the efficiency and use of resources so the cost of developing the policy that’s going to be shared but also the knowledge as well that will come from the representation across those councils,”

“While it is an Eastern Region approach, it will be targeted locally as well to ensure that the outcomes benefit us at a local level and council officers will work with the strategy working group to monitor and evaluate the outcomes of the access policy.”

As well as improving facilities, the policy will also aim to encourage women, girls, transgender and gender-diverse people to take up roles in sport, push for leadership positions, have fair allocation and scheduling, create a positive and supportive culture and environment at sporting organisations and reward, celebrate and prioritise sporting clubs and groups that demonstrate an ongoing commitment to gender equality.

Ryrie Ward Councillor Fiona McAllister said fair access is something Yarra Ranges Council has been actively committed to and seeking to address for quite a long time and have been successful in starting to do so.

“Fair access, particularly through participation in sport, these simple things make a big difference and we’ve had quite compelling presentations recently from clubs where change facilities and the necessary infrastructure has been a barrier, particularly for younger girls or to continue through sports as they get older,” she said.

“I’m very happy to see this come to us and as a council, we’ve fully committed fair access not just through our sporting facilities but also through everything we do and if this is formalising at a regional level it gives us a better platform for supporting the work we do as well as advocacy for funding.”