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You can't be what you can't see

Updated: Jun 22

Inclusion, equality, equity—words we hear more and more in our daily conversations, yet words that often carry different meanings depending on the context or understanding of those who use them. But what do these words really mean?


As the new CEO of Leisure Networks, my understanding of the true essence of these terms has deepened as I've listened to our customers and absorbed the proud stories of achievement from both customers and their families.


Our work in community sport at Leisure Networks embodies these values. In recent years, we've made a deliberate and concerted effort to redefine the narrative around All Abilities sport in the Barwon region.


Through strategic partnerships with organizations like AFL Barwon and Geelong United Basketball, we've witnessed the emergence of club-based All Abilities competitions.


What makes this initiative so special? Until now, individuals with disabilities have been encouraged to participate in skills clinics or standalone competitions—this is equality. But what we've achieved in the Barwon region is far more profound—it's true inclusion.


Today, well-known clubs in basketball, football, and netball are fielding teams in our All Abilities competitions, just as they do in juniors, men's, and women's divisions.


This shift marks a significant milestone in our community's journey toward genuine inclusivity. It's about more than just providing opportunities—it's about creating environments where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to fully participate.


Consider the profound feeling of connection and belonging experienced in community sport. Think about the impact on your identity, and the bond you have with teammates. We want people with disability to experience these same feelings.  The power of identity in pulling on the same guernsey, singlet or bib is immensely powerful. For clubs to succeed, they must become more inclusive and accessible, understanding how to support participants with disabilities. This strengthens our communities and promotes equity.


The impact for players is profound. Take Ray, a volunteer at St. Joseph’s FNC for 25 years. Last season, at 56, he had his first opportunity to play for his team. Similarly, Sean, known as "the Bossman" at Geelong West Giants, transitioned from waterboy to team captain—a testament to inclusion in sport.


Despite disappointment over the Commonwealth Games cancellation, there's a silver lining with the State Government allocating $40 million to increase access to all abilities sport in Regional Victoria. This funding will be life-changing. Leisure Networks stands ready to support this investment and drive change for individuals and communities, creating true equity in the places we love.


Witness the power of sport driving inclusion and equity at GMHBA Stadium on Saturday at 4.30pm for round 1 of the Kardinia Park Stadium Trust All Abilities Football league.

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