“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand”. Nelson Mandela, 2000
While there has been long-standing recognition of the importance of sport’s contribution to conflict resolution and human development globally, there has been less attention paid to its more nuanced local impact on enhancing social cohesion and mental health. On 19 September, a lively audience of 35 turned out early in Brisbane’s CBD, to engage in a fascinating panel discussion on measuring sport’s social impact.
Noting specifically sport’s complete absence in the current National Mental Health strategy, SIMNA Qld committee member and host for the event Dr Geoff Woolcock encouraged the panel to address two key questions:
- How can we assess the longer term difference sport is making to community cohesion and inclusion?
- What lessons are we learning from big events and the major codes, as well as at the grassroots?
- Chelli Easson, Manager, Sustainability & Legacy, Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
- Dean Warren, CEO, AFL Queensland
- Neesha Eckersley, Community Manager – Health & Projects, National Rugby League (NRL)
- Peter Cummiskey, CEO, QSport
Both Neesha (NRL) and Dean (AFL) spoke to the capacity of their relatively well resourced sports to make a direct impact in the lives of disadvantaged Australians, drawing attention to the various academies and schemes that enable learning, education and employment to flourish through participation.
Chelli focussed on the pragmatics of running the Legacy program for the recent Commonwealth Games, highlighting how one of the key drivers for social impact was the determination to support local sustainable suppliers for the Games.
As head of Queensland’s peak sporting body (QSport), Peter focussed on the growing pressure that sport bears to try and improve physical and mental health but with meagre resources, noting that the vast majority of sports participation is not-for-profit.
Interest was expressed in the potential for the recent Australian Sports Foundation’s new charitable fund given deductible gift recipient status (DGR) that is expected to lead to a further $25-30 million each year for charitable community sports projects by 2022, rising to more than $50 million a year within 10 years across Australia.
All of the panellists agreed that an ongoing challenge facing sport is growing its capacity to more effectively measure its economic, social and environmental impact, with limited expertise allocated and funded to undertake these assessments.
This was the first time that SIMNA had addressed this issue in the form of a dedicated event. The overwhelmingly positive response of those who attended and the many who were not able (this being the final week before school holidays!) has encouraged us to look ahead to co-hosting a national event on the same topic, working with Sport Matters.
Thank you to our panellists for their time and professional contribution.
Watch this space for more!