Women’s demand for active health support

Emma Kearney

Emma Kearney

WESTERN Bulldogs footballer Emma Kearney says for too long women have been starved of opportunities to be active.

Ms Kearney was rapt to find a Bulldogs-led holistic health initiative booked out in Ballarat, a sign there was demand from women wanting more support to lead more active, healthier lives.

Daughters of the West kicks off next week, an adaptation of the club’s Sons of the West program for men.

Ms Kearney, who is ambassador for the program, said a key driver in getting more women moving was a cultural change and providing strong female role models.

“I’m a PE (physical education) teacher by trade and really passionate about getting all people active, but for women, a big thing is increasing confidence,” Ms Kearney said. "All women in this program are doing something for a common goal in an environment safe and free from judgement.”

Ms Kearney was part of the inaugural AFLW season and is back in training for Women’s Big Bash League this summer with Melbourne Stars. Neither was a recognised sporting pathway for Ms Kearney growing up near Hamilton but going back further, she said her mum did not even have a chance to play either cricket or football.

Gradually, there are more options for women to be active and inspired.

Ms Kearney, as a teacher and sporting identity, hoped the increasing profile of women’s sports would help break cultural stereotypes.

“It’s amazing the support when you do get a little more exposure and the AFL does it so well,” Ms Kearney said. “As soon as you showcase a sport, people better appreciated what you’re doing. When people are amazed how hard we hit, we’ve actually been doing it for ages.”

Daughters of the West will feature work-shops focusing on women’s mental health, healthy eating and sexual health awareness while boosting social connections and well-being. Each session will also include a physical component, tailored to different fitness levels and abilities.

The program will kick off at four sites in Bulldogs’ territory including Melton, Wyndham, and Maribyrnong. Sessions have been developed with women and health services in each community. The program is delivered under a $600,000 state government grant to the Bulldogs’ community foundation for women’s health.