At the end of the soccer world cup, I’m sure many of us have been reflecting on the role that women from across the globe have played in bringing alive women’s sport in this country. We have experienced the highs and lows of our national team, have been thrilled by the level of athleticism on display and revelled in the spirit of this competition. I’ve not seen this focus on a women’s sporting competition before and, when an estimated 11.5 million Australians tuned into the Australia versus England game, making it the most watched event in Australian television history, the ratings book was rewritten.
Before the competition began, the 23 squad members of the Matildas released a video from the players union, reflecting on the rights for which past and present Matildas have fought and the legacy they hoped to leave (Matildas take aim at Fifa over prize money in video released days before World Cup kickoff – YouTube). Their legacy, I hope, has changed attitudes to their game and, more broadly, the opportunities for women. Over the past few weeks, the Matildas have provided a powerful narrative that challenges gender norms, promotes inclusivity, and empowers young women to engage in sports with confidence. This ultimately fosters a generation of active and confident women.
The Albanese Government’s $200 million pledge for girls’ sport and the Play Our Way initiative, is one step forward, but as most commentators say, is not nearly enough. As a society we need to ensure girls have access to facilities to train and play, are encouraged to stay in sport longer and can reach elite levels knowing they will be paid for their skills. In 2023, women are still a long way from equal representation in the media, equal access to resources in local government areas and for elite athletes, prize money. Let’s continue to advocate for girls and women, galvanizing the spirit we have seen played out during this Soccer World Cup. Thank you Matildas- what a legacy!