Recent statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that South Australia has the worst rate of participation in sport in the country. Involvement in sport and recreation in South Australia has decreased from 66 per cent in 2005-06 to 62 per cent in 2009-10. This is disappointing news given that, under the Rann government’s strategic plan, one of the government targets is to increase participation so that it exceeds the national average by 2014.
This recent figure is almost 2 per cent lower than the national average. Whilst not sounding like much, it is the equivalent to just under 25,000 participants. Unfortunately, it seems that the government is a long way from reaching its target in three years’ time.
At the top end of the chain, you have states such as Western Australia and Victoria with participation rates of 65 per cent. Getting to the top of the list should be our goal. It should be noted that the territories have significantly higher participation rates than the states. The ACT and the NT having rates of 78 per cent and 71 per cent respectively. All states should aim to reach these levels.
It is a great shame that we lag behind the pack in this area, just as we do in many other areas under this government, a government which currently seems distracted and focused on the spoils of government instead of the key issues facing our state.
The state Liberals have long been calling for new and improved facilities and better funding for grassroots sport to help lift participation rates. Fresh, new facilities can encourage and inspire participation in sport. A Liberal government will work with local government to maintain lighting at ovals, courts and other sporting grounds where required.
While providing for the safety of children and others participating and spectating, it gives those involved in community sport the opportunity to play matches under lights, sometimes only available to those playing professionally. A local football match under lights on a Friday or Saturday night has the added effect of encouraging fans to engage in what is generally a rare event at a community oval.
The Liberals will also address what I like to call ‘barriers to participation’, which include motivation, accessibility, affordability and time limitations. Lack of motivation to participate in sport can be entrenched by constant inactivity. Put simply, the less we do, the less we want to do.
This cycle of inactivity can be a chief factor in weight gain, which is reaching concerning levels in our society. One in five Australians (children and adults) are obese. A future Liberal government will aim to break the cycle of inactivity by encouraging inactive people to engage in low impact activities, such as lawn bowls, to get the ball rolling, so to speak, in terms of their fitness and health.
In many cases it is the first step which is the hardest, but after it is taken it is surprising how easy the next steps come. Accessibility is a problem for many people who are keen to get involved in local sport. Many competitions include teams from right across the metropolitan area which can lead to significant travel times in some cases.
Affordability of participating in sport can be a big problem to members of society, particularly to parents. Not only is it registration fees and player subs but also the cost of equipment which can easily be too much for the family budget.
With two children who have played sport at school and clubs over many years, I empathise with families on this issue. It is understandable as to why sport becomes the first thing to drop off the list when money is tight. We need to make it easier for people and parents to participate in sport regardless of their economic situation. The Rann government should be lobbying the federal government for assistance to ease the burden of these costs, possibly through a rebate system. After all, as we have flagged in the past, the impacts of youth participation in sport are immeasurable.
There must be a focus on working with local government to help ease costs. A lot of the time, councils have a direct role in sporting clubs and facilities and can play a part in reducing these expenses.
Finally, finding the time to engage in sport and recreational activities can be difficult. Not only does work or school take up most of a person’s day and week but many people are often too tired to get involved outside of this.
The state Liberals want to see more active workplaces and ensure that schools remain active through certain programs. In schools we want to make sure that sufficient time is being allocated outside of recess and lunch for physical activity, guarantee that there are enough physical education professionals in schools and ensure that schools have adequate resources and equipment to put this into action.
At workplaces, we want to see more activity during work hours through programs which get people out of their chairs and away from their desks (obviously not to the detriment of productivity).
Programs such as the Corporate Cup, encouraging people to walk or cycle to work, to use the stairs instead of the lift, even the small things can have an impact. For too long this government has focused on its Adelaide Oval vision, which will not do anything for grassroots sport.
As I have mentioned, the Rann government has a long way to go to reach its participation target and the new Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing has some very difficult times ahead.