It can be hard to sit on the bench and watch a game unfold when you can clearly see the playing field just isn’t fair. Whether the referee is favouring one side or perhaps the players aren’t showing sportsmanship or integrity. We have all been there, watching on, hoping to influence the outcome.
As the ACT Shadow Minister for Sport and Recreation, this is how I feel watching Sports Minister Yvette Berry mismanage our local sports facilities. This is most evident in the Minister’s visionless handling of our indoor sports facilities.
For years the Canberra community has called for more indoor facilities. Let’s face it, with our extreme climate and the types of sporting activities we enjoy – it just makes sense.
Whether it’s traditional sports like basketball or netball, or more recreational pursuits like table tennis or dance classes – sporting Canberrans of all stripes are asking: where are our indoor facilities?
We know there are waitlists for most sports and access to existing facilities can be competitive and expensive. This makes participation for many Canberrans unaffordable or too difficult to balance with work, study and family responsibilities.
Perhaps naively we all thought that the long-waited ACT Government feasibility study into indoor sports would yield results. It was promised by Ms Berry in 2016 and released just this month.
Sadly the 14-page document delivers very little for local sport and recreation, instead recommending even more studies, reports and reviews. Interestingly it criticises the planning, funding and lack of strategic direction of the current Government – perhaps the reason why Ms Berry sat on the document for almost nine months.
The report did highlight the need to build more multipurpose facilities, especially for focus areas like Gungahlin, Woden and Belconnen. It makes the case for partnering with local schools, and maximising existing infrastructure to address the variety of needs within our diverse community.
What was the ACT Government’s response to the long-awaited feasibility study? Build a single-use venue in Throsby. Now I’m sure this facility will be a great asset for soccer and futsal players, but it fails to cater for the thousands of other Canberrans who actively participate in sport and recreation. You would think a multipurpose sports facility that more people can enjoy would be far more economically viable than a single-use venue.
The Government’s commitment to the single-use venue, against the advice of its own report, tells us a bit about how this government operates. It tells us that it doesn’t really matter how many people cry out for better facilities, or how many reviews and recommendations highlight gaps in existing facilities – the government is playing its own game, blind to the spectators on the sidelines. You can’t help but wonder if the game is rigged.
It is frustrating to sit on the sidelines and watch report after report be commissioned, and no real action or deliverables. Still, we have all felt like this on the sports field.
Sports Minister Yvette Berry’s inaction only strengthens my resolve to keep fighting for local sports and recreation to ensure that all Canberrans get the facilities they need and deserve.
James Milligan is the Shadow Minister for Sports and Recreation for the ACT.