Making Canberra’s sportsgrounds more accessible to women has long been part of Minister for Sport Yvette Berry’s vision for Canberra’s facilities.
Throughout 2020 and 2021, a number of the ACT’s popular ovals and sportsgrounds have been treated to major upgrades such as new female toilets and change rooms as well as new LED lighting, new cricket facilities and improvements to irrigation.
Canberra Ultimate Frisbee player Hope Watson knows firsthand the difficulty of being a female athlete in Canberra.
“Often, you’ll have to go searching and find there’s only a urinal or no change rooms for women and you have to go and use the men’s toilet,” she explained.
“We want to reduce the barriers to women and girls playing sport as much as possible and having female facilities and change rooms, particularly for younger players, is a big part of that.”
Ms Berry, who is also the Minister for Women, noted the importance of simple upgrades like new flooring, lighting and heating as well as doors on showers and female toilets, to ensure sports facilities are inclusive and accessible by all.
“These kinds of facilities were built by men, for men, without any thought to women playing sport,” she said.
“It’s now really great that women can come to these sportsfields and feel more comfortable in those updated facilities.”
Ms Berry said there was an “increase across the board” in female participation rates in sport, particularly in sports generally dominated by men such as rugby league and union.
She noted the increase of women participating in sport was more marked in informal sports such as running, walking and cycling.
The ACT Government began an overhaul of changerooms across Canberra, including at major sporting venues, back in 2018 after it was revealed Canberra’s female athletes were being forced to get changed on the sidelines.
A total of $60 million has been invested in upgrades at 13 of the ACT’s sportsgrounds throughout 2020-21.
Since the beginning of 2020, improvements have been rolled out across 13 sportsgrounds, including upgrades to pavilions at the district playing fields in Curtin, Charnwood and Hawker and the Woden Park Enclosed Oval.
Earlier this year, Amaroo District Playing Fields and Bonner Neighbourhood Oval both received LED lighting upgrades which now allows greater flexibility to schedule events and games after sunset.
There’s more to come, with the softball grounds in Hawker and the district playing fields in Mawson and Kambah to get similar upgrades in the next financial year.
Further drainage improvements are being rolled out at the Higgins Neighbourhood Oval as well as the Nicholls Enclosed Oval, with both projects expected to get underway early in the new year.
The Greenway Enclosed Oval will also be given female-friendly improvements, and cricket facilities at the Melba and Taylor neighbourhood ovals will be improved.
Ms Berry also noted the renewed importance organised sports have for Canberrans, who were unable to play throughout lockdown.
“Many of us are itching to get out and enjoy the sports we love as we head into Christmas,” she said.
“We want people to be able to enjoy some really great facilities when they can return to sport.”
Learn more about the sports upgrades at City Services.