Australia prides itself on being a sporting nation. In fact, according to the Australian Immigration Handbook, ‘we play sport, watch sport, bet on sports and talk sports more than anything else’.Yet there is a very real risk that in the not too distant future, this educative list on what new citizens can expect when arriving in Australia will no longer include playing sport as one of our major national pastimes.
Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) Intergenerational Review of Australian Sport 2017 unflinchingly warns that if we do not take urgent steps Australia will transition from a nation of active sport participants to a nation of passive sport consumers.In a speech this week, the Chair of the Australian Sports Commission, John Wylie shared his aspiration for: “Australia to be the most active sporting nation, a healthy and successful sporting nation, known for our integrity, vibrant participation base, thriving sports organisations and world-leading sports industry, as well as our elite results.”Community Clubs in the ACT are helping with each of these goals.
The 2015 KPMG National Club Census, finds the social contribution of ACT Clubs is a massive $39 million and consisted of direct community donations, subsidised access to facilities and volunteering. A large part of this relates to the legislated and reported community contributions, of which nearly $7 million supports sport from grass roots to elite level – and sporting infrastructure for all ACT residents.
Without our Clubs, much of the sport in which Canberrans currently participate would be under significant threat.In his speech, Mr Wylie highlights another threat stating that: “One pressing issue we need to confront in a hurry is about how unfit and obese we’re becoming.”Nearly two-thirds of Canberra’s adults and a quarter of children are overweight or obese. Over 80% of Australian children are not meeting the recommended activity guidelines, and more than half of adults are living sedentary or low activity lifestyles. Further, a study by Medibank Private, which looked at the impact of inactivity on a range of diseases, concluded that increased participation could generate gross savings of $1.49 billion per year.Sport is key in getting people moving and keeping them healthy longer. Sport brings people together and teaches important life skills. Being able to compete with the best on the world stage plays a vital role in Australia’s international reputation and our own view of ourselves.Clubs in the ACT maintain over 400 hectares of green-space for sporting use, six golf courses, twenty bowling greens, three cricket fields, five football fields, a yacht club, a basketball stadium, the race course, a bmx track, and many gymnasiums… and this week that list expands to include the opening of a $19 million purpose-built health and wellness building by the Canberra Southern Cross Club.BCG’s report concludes that for every dollar spent on sport in Australia there are net benefits of $7 in total – a sevenfold return!The Government has signaled its intention to have a debate about the community contributions of ACT Clubs and criticism has been levelled at Clubs by some for targeting too much funding towards sport. But the contributions toward sport are not ‘out of kilter with what the community expects.’ Quite the contrary, it is exactly what the community needs.There is a preponderance of evidence around the need to invest more in this area in order to increase sporting participation at all levels. Seeing our elite sportspeople achieve amazing feats on the sports field inspires others to get more active and drives participation. Watching the upcoming Commonwealth Games is a future champion – only if we can make sport accessible to him or her.Investing in sport is good for our children, ourselves, our community and our economy.Without Club contributions this is at risk. This was made abundantly clear in a recent Estimates hearing, where an ACT Government spokesperson revealed: “If we were asked, within our existing budget envelope, to take on board all of the existing facilities that are operated, owned and run by Clubs and perform all of the functions that they currently perform, I would have to say, in all honesty, that our budget would not extend to that.”Seems like encouraging Club’s financial support for sport in the ACT is a sure fire winner.