Building the momentum for crucial change

SAM DUNCAN, THE AUSTRALIAN

The inaugural PMSO on Wednesday evening brought together corporate and philanthropic Australia with politicians and policymakers to raise funds to shape the direction of investment in grassroots sport.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard’s oration championed the importance of sport for the betterment of the nation.

The event raised tax deductible funds for the Australian Sports Foundation. Next year, the funds will be available for grassroots and community sporting organisations to apply for, through the ASF, to support programs that address one or more of the PMSO’s key cause areas.

Chairman of the PMSO’s organising committee, Campbell Rose, said he’d had the idea for an event like this for more than 20 years.

“It’s tough to use a sitting prime minister because they’re always managed and controlled in their messaging,” he said.

“A previous office holder can speak their mind and say something quite controversial.”

Recent events in cricket, said Rose, highlighted that our nation was facing a “challenge of significant enormity”.

“We live in this sun-drenched country known for its sporting prowess, but in recent years we’ve really lost our way,” he said. “It starts at home, it starts on the sporting field, it starts with teamwork, it starts with learning what good sportsmanship is all about, whether you’re a male or a female.”

The PMSO organising committee arrived at four cause areas to address what they saw as the biggest issues affecting the nation: women and girls in sport; physical activity; leadership and decision-making; and diversity and inclusion. They were decided upon, Rose said, because they were specific but also broad enough.

“We’re a lucky country here, but we face a whole range of issues that manifest themselves in law and order, in education, scholastic capability, on a whole range of different fronts,” he said.

“And we felt that these four cause areas really picked up pretty much all of the types of issues that our nation universally faces.”

Rose said, as an example, the relevance of the leadership and decision-making cause was evident in the recent cricket ball tampering saga, and as the second fattest nation in the developed world, the need for physical activity has never been more important.

He said the profound impact on the community he’d seen in the western region of Melbourne after, as chief executive of the Western Bulldogs, he oversaw the rebuilding of facilities gave him the foundation and insights for the PMSO.

“But that’s only just one microcosm of what needs to be done around the country. The PMSO is giving our country the platform to have a debate about these things,” he said.

“What we’re saying is you’ve got to build the base. The cream will float to the top, the elite athletes will naturally get the resources to perform. Everyone likes to see a gold medallist, but where do the gold-medallists start? They start from a family taking someone and getting them involved in sport.”

Rose said we needed the policymakers and decisionmakers to be bold enough to take a risk worth taking.

“It’ll take time, we’ve got a few prime ministers to do a few speeches,” he said.

“This will be an annual event … and I really think we’re going to build a bit of a groundswell and momentum with this.”

‘Everyone likes to see a gold medallist, but where do the gold medallists start?’

NewsAnna Poulos