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Sport Stars Join Women Leadership Programs

Olympic gold medallists, world champions and specialists preparing for the Tokyo Games are among 33 women selected to participate in two professional development programs with the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), designed to increase the representation of women across all roles in Australian sport.

Olympic gold medallists Sally Pearson (athletics) and Juliet Haslam (hockey), retired tennis champion Casey Dellacqua, multiple lawn bowls world champion Karen Murphy and former Australian Matildas footballer Michelle Heyman are among the 17 women who will be part of the inaugural AIS Accelerate Program, which aims to increase career pathway options in sport for women athletes.

Sixteen women have also been selected for the AIS Talent Program, this year focused on advancing the professional development of women in sport across science, technology, engineering and medical disciplines.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and Minister for Sport, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, congratulated the successful recipients of both programs, which are funded by the Australian Government’s Office for Women and supported by Sport Australia.

“It is fitting this announcement is occurring in National Careers Week because these AIS programs show the incredible diversity of career options available to women in sport and other industries,” Minister Payne said.

“In the AIS Talent Program alone, we have sport doctors, physiotherapists, engineers, biomechanists, physiologists and nutritionists, just to name a few of the professions. This program aligns perfectly with the Australian Government’s broader strategy of increasing gender equity in STEM education and careers.”

The AIS Accelerate program has been launched this year to support women athletes to progress their leadership skills in sport well beyond their athletic careers.

Minister Colbeck said: “These women have proudly represented Australia as athletes, so the AIS Accelerate program is about recognising the leadership ability they already have and providing professional development for them to become representatives for progress in sport.

“Four of the participants are still in training for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which is a testament to the way they are able to balance their athletic careers with their education and professional ambition.”

Australian Sports Commission Chair Josephine Sukkar described the programs as transformational.

“The equal participation of women in all aspects of sport in Australia is critical to the success and sustainability of our sector,” Sukkar said.

“We must attract and retain women in leadership roles in sport, and these programs will drive the building of a critical mass.”

AIS CEO Peter Conde said: “The participants in these programs span across 17 different sports, including Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth Games and professional sport. Some hold positions at state institutes and academies. These programs and the women participating can be a catalyst for change across Australian sport.”

Sally Pearson and Casey Dellacqua welcomed the new AIS Athlete Accelerate program, which will commence 1 June.

“It’s great to be involved in the AIS Accelerate Program and learn and talk with other women athletes about their experiences in transitioning to professional careers in sport,” said Pearson.

“Women athletes have a lot to offer to sport beyond their achievements on the track, court or pool. It will only benefit sport by leveraging their experience and talent in leadership roles.”

Dellacqua added: “Athletes have so many transferable skills and I’m really looking forward to working with and learning from the diverse group of athletes who have been selected for the AIS Accelerate Program.

“I think it’s important that women are represented and given opportunities to be in leadership positions in sport. As I want to continue to be a leader in my sport, it’s great to have these pathways to keep growing and keep learning.”

The AIS Talent program has commenced at the AIS in Canberra this week, with the first of three three-day educational sessions. This will be complemented by online learning and support networks.

AIS Talent Program participant and Chief Medical Officer of Paralympics Australia Dr Rachel Harris said: “It is an incredible opportunity to learn more about ourselves as leaders, and in turn to further foster our leadership aspirations. It is also an honour to be a part of such an incredible group of women, creating networks, and through these connections, I envisage us continuing to support each other in the future.”

The AIS Talent and AIS Athlete Accelerate Programs are two key initiatives focused on high performance sport as part of the Women Leadership in Sport (WLIS) program. WLIS is focused on helping women reach their leadership potential in sport, with $3.4m over four years provided by the Australian Government.

To learn more about the AIS Athlete Accelerate and AIS Talent Programs, visit the AIS website here.


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