On Wednesday 21 June, the Centre for Multicultural Sport (CMSport) partnered with Vicsport to deliver a forum aimed at Engaging Multicultural Women and Girls in Sport. 110 people attended the event and left feeling informed and motivated, through open discussion that was grounded in lived experience, best practice and research. 

We thank our incredible host, Nana Owusu-Afriyie, for running the day so seamlessly and generously sharing with the audience her lived experience of being a multicultural woman in sport. Not to mention her ability to connect and draw the best out of our wonderful speakers. 

The day formally commenced with an inspiring keynote from Aish Ravi, who highlighted the expectations she faced as a young woman from a migrant background – balancing the cultural norms expected from her family with her passion for wanting to play sport. Aish’s experience as a teacher helped her realise that limitations on young women accessing sport were systemic and she has committed to working in this space through her academic research. Aish left us all with a call to action, to:

  • Make connections with communities to build your understanding and establish trust. 
  • Engage families to educate diverse communities on the value of sport. 
  • Address your unconscious bias and bust cultural norms to ensure that women and girls from new and emerging communities aren’t stereotyped as ‘non sporty’. 
  • Invest in women and girls to ensure they get access to leadership opportunities across all levels of sport. This helps to bring more diversity in thought and conversation. 

“Equity in sport is a systems issue, we need to work together to fix it” 

The keynote was followed by an expert panel featuring Meghan Mayman (Regional Sport Victoria), Marta Hintsa (Reclink Australia) and Jaffa McKenzie (Office for Women, DFFH), who shared insightful data and personal stories. Their discussion highlighted the need for connecting with community and to ensure we are designing new programs that have safe environments at their core.

Start your own journey! Marta shared her story of feeling excluded from playing basketball when she started wearing a hijab. To overcome this, she established a recreational basketball event and 96 young women attended. She reached out to Reclink to auspice the competition, which has now grown to 16 teams and sees her in a full-time role as Senior Sport and Recreation Coordinator. 

Get to know your community! Meghan discussed the importance of connecting with local community organisations and understanding your audience to develop sustainable programs. 

Be flexible in delivery! Jaffa presented data that showed the alarming disparity in participation in formal sport that women from multicultural background experience. Rates of informal participation have increased as it is more flexible for women and girls. 

“These programs don’t need to be perfect, they just need to get started to start making progress” 

The day concluded with two interactive workshops hosted by Clare Hanlon (Victoria University) and Dr Tuba Boz (RMIT University), who focused on workforce participation. Clare was joined by Nisha Wijesekera (Victorian Government) and Amal Hassan Ali (Western Bulldogs) to discuss strategies to ensure leadership opportunities are open and available to women from multicultural backgrounds. Using lived experience and current research, forum attendees discussed “what is my workplace doing to support improved opportunities?” and left with new ideas on how they can create environments where there is more diversity in leadership. 

Tuba was joined by Megan Harper (City of Whittlesea) to share the strategies they used to engage Muslim women and girls to play golf in their local community. A key takeaway was the importance of listening to the needs of the community and collaborating with local council and schools. There are many enablers to supporting Muslim girls play sport, and working together is important to effectively address barriers to their participation. 

A consistent message from all presenters was “do something and do it now”. By working across multiple sectors, we can break down the systemic barriers women from multicultural background face in accessing sport – whether that is playing sport, watching sport or working in sport.