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New network aims to empower women with disabilities in sports leadership

a photo of network members Melissa Hale (left) and Jessi Hooper (right) facilitating a Building Inclusive Sport Clubs workshop in a meeting room. Melissa is standing and speaking holding notes and a pen. Jessi is sitting, listening and smiling. Behind the two is a television screen with a presentation.

Disability Sports Australia and Victoria University, Melbourne have launched the ‘Leadership in Sport Network: Women with Disability.’ This initiative gathers women and non-binary identifying leaders employed in the disability sports and active recreation sector to collaborate and professionally grow their skill sets.

The group discuss career pathways and professional development opportunities, and actively contribute to building accessible and socially connected inclusive sports communities for people with disabilities.

Co-Project Leader, Elle Steele, expressed the significance of this initiative, stating, “It feels very special to be part of such an important group in history. There is no other group like this in Australia, and to bring all these incredibly inspiring women together is a privilege. These women are leaders in their own right, and we hope this network will one day help shape disability leadership and inclusion in Australia.”

The ‘Leadership in Sport Network’ invites current leaders in sport including coaches, umpires, directors, senior managers, and national program facilitators who are women and non-binary with disabilities. The network communicates through various online platforms such as WhatsApp, email, and social media groups.

Sessions are tailored to the needs and feedback of the group and may include guest presentations, internal network sessions filled with tips and industry connections, and industry-wide sessions with national bodies to discuss key topics and resources.

“The Leadership in Sport Network has been a transformative experience for me, providing a valuable platform to connect with other women leaders with disabilities. Our shared passion for leadership and mutual support has allowed us to make meaningful contributions to the discourse surrounding disability in sport and recreation,” said Brandie O’Connor, one of the facilitators from ACT.

“We engage in a shared journey of learning and growth, drawing from our collective experiences. The knowledge and expertise we gain is then shared with sporting organisations, bolstering inclusion for the next generation of disabled athletes, community participants; and employment opportunities in sport and recreation for people with disability.”

The Leadership in Sport Network is already underway. They maintain regular social media communication between sessions, providing additional opportunities for professional development and career advancement.

News about the members of the network’s involvement with the Building Inclusive Sport Clubs program’s forums is set for announcement early next week.

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