Growing philanthropic investment to build a healthier, more active Australia

A message from The Hon Julia Gillard AC

Sport 2030, the Australian Government’s recently released national sports plan, has assigned the Australian Sports Foundation with the weighty task of raising between $200 million and $300 million for sport per year by 2030, while significantly reducing the number of national sports organisations that are reliant on government funding.

Yes, these are big targets and, for the first time in the Sports Foundation’s 32-year history, fundraising has become a front-line agent of the Government’s wider funding of sport. While the funding targets may appear daunting to many, we believe they are achievable.

Significant steps towards attaining these fundraising targets are the establishment of the Australian Sports Foundation Charitable Trust in June, and the creation of the Prime Ministers’ Sporting Oration. 

The inaugural Oration, to be attended by 500 of Australia’s key business leaders and key decision makers, will be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on November 21. The Oration address will be delivered by The Honourable Julia Gillard, Australia’s 27th Prime Minister.

The Oration has been created to raise tax-deductible funds for the Sports Foundation and instigate a high-level focus on the on the fundamental importance grassroots sport and recreational activity has on the development of children. Active sport and recreation builds children’s health and resilience and teaches decision making and leadership skills which equips them for their future.

The Oration aims to engage corporate Australia, the sporting industry and key influential policy makers about the need to increase philanthropic and community investment in sport across four key areas; women and girl’s sport; diversity and inclusion; leadership and decision making; and increasing levels of physical activity.

More opportunities for active sports participation, regardless of age, gender, location or ethnicity must be created across our nation. 

Concerningly, inactivity has seen an alarming rise in levels of obesity, with Australia now the fifth most obese nation in the world. One in four children are considered overweight or obese and their expanding waistlines cost taxpayers $43.2 million each year. Rather than funds being directed to manage the rising levels of obesity and its associated health issues, we believe community and philanthropic funding for sport, as targeted by the Sport 2030 report, can help alleviate taxpayers’ annual obesity bill. 

Currently, research shows that kids are not receiving enough daily activity. Therefore, we need to motivate them to become more active, more often and to lead healthier lifestyles.

For the first time, the Sports Foundation’s Charity will allow sport to benefit from more than $550 million distributed annually by Public and Private Ancillary Funds. Currently, Ancillary Funds hold more than $4.4 billion in philanthropic assets and are required to distribute a minimum of 5% of assets held every year. Our fundraising optimism for sport is borne from the estimated $55 million distributed annually by Ancillary Funds for arts and culture programs.

While arts and culture are dear to the hearts of many Australians, we believe sport is an integral part of our DNA and is woven into every community in every corner of the country. Therefore, we believe donations for charitable sports causes can exceed funds currently distributed to arts and culture. Year in and year out, our biggest attending annual events are sports matches such as the MCG cricket Test, and the highest rating TV programs are blockbusters such as State of Origin Rugby League and the AFL Grand Final. We are glued to the TV when cheering Aussies in action during an Olympic Games and at a Commonwealth Games.

While our passion for sport consumption remains, it is critical we motivate all current and future Australians that sports participation is not merely a fun past-time for a segment of our community, but an essential part of creating and maintaining healthy, active and socially interactive communities, particularly at a grassroots level.

So how do we motivate kids and adults to become more active, and how do we attract investment for grassroots and community sport? We need to break down the barriers which are preventing increased participation and establish and fund specific programs and projects which will attract participants.

Take women’s sport for example. Women and girls participate in sport at about half the rate of males. Among the reasons for this low rate is the lack of female coaches and aspirational sports role models.  Sports clubs are often dominated by male administrators which can create an unwelcoming environment. Facilities, particularly change rooms, are male-orientated and largely unsuitable for women’s needs.

Disability sport is on the rise thanks to inspirational champion athletes such as Kurt Fearnley and Danni Di Toro, Co-Captains of our 2016 Paralympic Team. We need to continue to send a message to the broader disability community that sports participation can lead to an active and fulfilled life….including representing Australia at the Paralympic Games or Commonwealth Games.

We need to communicate the opportunity with Ancillary Funds managers, philanthropic and community donors and demonstrate that their charitable investment in sport will achieve real, measurable and beneficial outcomes. It will take teamwork and ongoing collaboration among stakeholders to build a more active Australia, enhance physical and mental well-being and strengthen our communities. This includes corporate Australia, all governments, national and state sports organisations, clubs and other key sports parties. 

Importantly, the Sport 2030 Report has broadened the definition of sport to include physical and recreational activity such as fun runs, social cycling, ocean swimming and community walking. This provides increasing opportunities for Australians to engage in whole-of-life physical activity. 

The Sports Foundation has come a long way, particularly over the past four years, where nearly $150 million has been raised for Australian sport through tax-deductible donations. However, the creation of our new Charity, and the establishment of the Prime Ministers' Sporting Oration, opens the door for more philanthropic investment opportunity and broader dialogue to ensure sport remains strong and diverse while delivering healthier, inclusive and more cohesive societies.

CommentaryDavid Turner