WENDOUREE MP Sharon Knight will this week step up her lobbying for adequate female change facilities in Ballarat grassroots sport.
Ms Knight flagged a bid for AFL compliant, female-friendly changerooms at Western Oval to Victorian Sports Minister John Eren in the final sitting of parliament last year.
Now, with Minister Eren officially confirming funding decisions were imminent, Ms Knight plans to keep the importance of the project high on his agenda.
“Women’s sport has really turned a corner. The culture is changing and people are recognising how valuable women’s sports are,” Ms Knight said. “A lack of facilities, or no facilities, those are the things that prevent women participating.”
City of Ballarat and Redan Football Netball Club have applied for a grant under the Community Sports Infrastructure Fund, which shares in a $14 million pledge for developing and improving female facilities, for Western Oval.
The ground has traditionally played home to the club’s juniors and is increasingly becoming the base for the Lions’ booming female football program.
Female changerooms were a key feature in the $2.5 million clubroom upgrades at CE Brown Reserve in Wendouree, which were complete last year.
“The push for female facilities at grassroots will hopefully lead to equal pay, equal sponsorship so elite sportswomen and sportsmen can enjoy a level playing field,” Ms Knight said.
Redan vice-president Tracey Boyce said the Lions considered themselves as one of the leaders in women’s football in the region and it was important to have the right, comfortable facilities to match.
The Lions have been a founding club in all levels of female competition in Ballarat, starting with the inaugural Ballarat Football League youth girls season in 2011. They fielded five female teams last season, from under-12s through to open women plus more than 20 girl Auskickers. And numbers keep growing.
"Already this year there has been a significant number of enquiries from parents looking to start their girls in juniors and from open women new to town,” Mr Boyce said. “With the AFLW season starting we’re expecting another surge of interest, just like it did last year.”
New lighting is being installed at Western Oval, adding to upgrades that include ground resurfacing and a new netball court.