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Mobility scholars help Fiji AFL and Vanuatu AFL kick goals for women in sport

Over 50 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Mobility students from the College of Sport and Exercise Science, Victoria University, have teamed up with AFL Vanuatu, AFL Fiji and AFL International to create a women’s AFL recruitment and retention guide.

The students worked with the Fijian and Vanuatuan AFL organisations to develop a custom guide with the purpose of encouraging women and girls to play football in their respective regions.

Encouraging women to play sport is not just about the sport. Playing a sport has deeper sociological and physiological benefits for girls who play compared to those who don’t. Research has shown that women’s participation in sport fosters confidence, lifelong health, and wellbeing, and reduces domestic violence.

Young players passing an AFL ball. Source: Victoria University
Young players passing an AFL ball. Source: Victoria University

The Mobility students, who are currently studying Sports Management at Victoria University, were split into two groups to create a custom solution for the unique issues in attracting women to participate in sport for each region.

The intensive one-month online consultation process was an immersive experience for the students and involved working closely with each nation’s AFL manager. In detail they explored their needs and challenges and reviewed past strategies that had not worked.

While the consultation was online due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, there were many opportunities for interaction with each organisation.

“One of the highlight learnings for the students involved was the immersion into each nation’s culture and practices. Enriching their cultural understanding enabled them to deliver appropriate strategies for each region,” said Project Coordinator, Professor Clare Hanlon.

As the students became familiar with the culture and barriers, they were able to devise a number of strategies to mitigate these. Along the way, each AFL manager provided feedback. This fluid exchange and numerous touch points challenged the students, but ultimately enabled them to support the AFL manager better and produce a stronger output.

“Each student approached the task with passion and personal investment. Students are more motivated to deliver when they truly understand the impacts a project can have,” said Professor Hanlon.

On top of the recruitment and resource guides, participants delivered a useful report on the findings from an AFL Fiji and Vanuatu women in leadership survey.

AFL Australia’s International Development Manager, Ben Drew, also helped facilitate the project.

“When I was on the video consultations with the respective AFL regional affiliates and the NCP mobility students, they were all very engaged and enthusiastic,” said Ben. 

“The NCP students have provided some valuable insights to each of the regions with the aim to help keep women in the game. Both AFL Vanuatu and AFL Fiji have expressed that they will take the students’ tools and use them as a base to develop more targeted education and specific programs.”

Overall, the participants have walked away with rich cultural learnings of Fijian and Vanuatuan culture and practical experience in developing sports management solutions for clients. This will help give them an advantage for future employability opportunities.

This collaborative work has strengthened relationships and shown that, despite COVIV-19 travel restrictions, Australian students were able to continue their engagement in the region - helping Fiji and Vanuatu empower women through sport.

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