‘Female-friendly’ improvements a key part of Canberra’s sportsgrounds upgrades

Lottie Twyford 22 December 2021 24
hope Watson and Yvette Berry

Ultimate Frisbee player Hope Watson and Minister for Sport Yvette Berry discuss the need for upgraded sports facilities – especially for women – in the ACT. Photo: ACT Government.

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.”

Yvette Berry with sports plyers

Minister for Sport Yvette Berry with local sports players. Photo: ACT Government.

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.


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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.


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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.


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24 Responses to ‘Female-friendly’ improvements a key part of Canberra’s sportsgrounds upgrades
Bruce Mills Bruce Mills 9:06 am 29 Dec 21

Recreation areas are for all and should have basic facilities for male and females as standard. I find it ridiculous they didn’t to start with.

Tony Graham Tony Graham 4:35 pm 28 Dec 21

Andy dream on for this to happen in Murrumbateman.

Wes Dempsey Wes Dempsey 10:36 pm 27 Dec 21

Good call!

jwinston jwinston 12:16 pm 27 Dec 21

I’m guessing that the new facilities will look like a small apartment block so that all pronouns and acronyms can be accommodated…

Robert Barnes Robert Barnes 7:09 am 27 Dec 21

It would be great to get some change rooms/ toilets out at the hall oval for the woman’s and mens rugby teams that play there. Currently the woman’s team have to get changed on the oval.

Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 6:58 am 27 Dec 21

It must be an election year. How is irrigation and LED lighting a female upgrade?

    Clinton Berry Clinton Berry 4:32 pm 27 Dec 21

    Daniel Duncan The ACT election was October 2020, we have fixed four year terms.

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 8:01 pm 27 Dec 21

    Clinton was it? I don't remember it was to painful for my wallet.

    Catherine Abramczuk Catherine Abramczuk 7:27 pm 28 Dec 21

    Daniel Duncan cellulite is less visible with led lights 😁

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 11:09 pm 28 Dec 21

    Catherine dose that work with beer guts as well.. asking for a mate

Will Barrett Will Barrett 9:59 pm 26 Dec 21

Sabiha Zafrin Alexandra Isabella Dunbar Kelly Steele it's Hope! 😃

Pascal's Wager Pascal's Wager 7:24 pm 26 Dec 21

Good on you Hope for pursuing equality in sport, especially just basic decent facilities for women. And thank you ACT Government for listening and acting.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:00 pm 26 Dec 21

““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.”

Shock, horror! Why would this be a challenge for a female ultimate frisbee athlete?

    JC JC 9:49 am 27 Dec 21

    Really? I think you have stooped to a new low.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 7:23 am 28 Dec 21

    I didn’t know you were keeping a dossier on me JC. How about you reveal my alleged previous low was so we can compare notes?

    I don’t know of you have noticed that in recent years women have become involved in sports traditionally exclusive to men. Accordingly, if women can’t tolerate the sporting facilities that men have always tolerated then they should retreat to netball and needlework.

    JC JC 6:25 pm 28 Dec 21

    Wow now you have gone even lower. This is 2021 almost 2022 in case you haven’t noticed.

    Sexist comments such as yours might have been accepted in the 1980’s, maybe even 1990’s but are 100% inappropriate now (as they would have been back then too).

    A female AFL or rugby player is as entitled to a change room and a gender specific toilet as any male player. And I would of course hope if any male wanted to play netball that they too have access to a male change room and toilet too.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:00 am 29 Dec 21

    JC, when you have “entitlement” and “gender specific” in the same sentence it’s a sign that you are heavily into symbolism and virtue signaling and have lost touch with reality.

    As I alluded to earlier, times have changed and while I respect what you are campaigning for I don’t see it the way you do.

gooterz gooterz 11:26 am 26 Dec 21

Few of the south side grounds are well maintained. Some on the north side are worlds apart. Glad to see south side always allocated funding for the future but never actually happens.

Recalling that much of the infrasturue budget wasn’t spent on infrastructure last year.

Warwick Alsop Warwick Alsop 10:53 am 26 Dec 21

I'd be interested to know which sporting grounds didn't have female change rooms or toilets. It's pretty surprising.

    Geoff Stewart Geoff Stewart 5:24 pm 26 Dec 21

    Warwick Alsop and why the hell did it take until 2018 to do anything about it??

Futureproof Futureproof 10:18 am 26 Dec 21

“Improvements to irrigation” is female friendly. Wow, I didn’t know that was a thing

Sher Bee Sher Bee 10:17 am 26 Dec 21

Should have already be a done thing. I hope you ask females to design these amenities. I personally would like park public toilets to not be toilet cubicle within a room, too many hiding options for nasty people. I live with PTSD, I can’t use these toilets without support.

    Jem Payne Jem Payne 1:04 pm 26 Dec 21

    Sher Bee I agree, I think that the toilet cubicles that open directly onto an open area are better for that reason, as long as they have a full door. They also tend to be cleaner and better ventilated in my experience.

echidna94 echidna94 8:21 am 26 Dec 21

Great to see physical infrastructure upgrades and not “just” inclusion programs and similar. As a woman myself, I think that often people think the reason we’re not doing something is really complex and “discursive”, whereas it can sometimes be as simple as not feeling safe due to the physical characteristics of a location.

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