Prime Ministers' Sporting Oration opening remarks



The Honourable Julia Gillard, Bridget McKenzie, Don Farrell, Mark Stockwell and the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp, on behalf of our Patron Susan Alberti and the Organising Committee of tonight’s event a very warm welcome to you all.

This Oration brings leaders of business and industry together with policy and decision makers to advocate for a ‘case for change’.

I’ve recently returned from the highly successful and inspirational Invictus Games in Sydney.

In so many ways this event and the achievements of all of those who participated has redefined sport, and in my mind, the way we look at competition and participation.

I’d like to acknowledge representatives from the Games Organising Committee who are here tonight, and congratulate them on their outstanding success.

We know that physical activity is fundamental to our overall mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing both as individuals and as a community.

Australia has long had reputation as a great sporting nation the sun drenched country, great open spaces has meant that sport is part of the way we live and fundamental to our culture.

As a sporting nation, we have had high participation rates in sports inherent to our way of life; the surf lifesavers, swimmers, sailors, cricketers, rugby and football players, netballers and every sport in between in abundance.

Whilst we have produced champions from healthy grassroots participation, changes in society and the way we work and live means that sport at the community, grassroots level is also changing.

A real gap is starting to emerge between the quality of experiences and facilities that we as a nation provide for grassroots communities and what we provide on for those on the pathway to elite sport.

The gap is growing wider between those who are getting faster and stronger through investment in elite sport, through high performance management programs and so forth.

However, this is not about re-directing money from elite sport to community sport.

There is a strong case for ongoing investment in supporting our elite athletes in an environment that is more competitive than ever.

This is about recognising that without strong, healthy, mass participation in community sport, supported by excellent facilities for all, regardless of your age, gender or demographic we as a nation will lose out.

It means our elite sports suffer, and we become sicker and poorer as a nation which means greater tax outlays as we manage chronic health and disease.

We are seeing the effects of the decline in the amount of physical activity and organised sport taught in schools across our country, with Australia now being the second fattest developed nation only behind the US.

Our youth today, the generation of tomorrow, and our future leaders will come from the grassroots.

As will our future medallists and world champions.

Physical, mental and spiritual health will be and is fundamental to their and our future success.

On your table there is a box which contains four booklets amongst some other things.

These booklets highlight the issues that face us as a sporting nation, whether you be in Esperance or Broome, to Bruny Island or to the top of Cape York to Darwin, and every capital city and every small town in between, these issues touch and affect us all.

The case for change is to address the barriers to greater participation in physical activity and recreation.

Simply, we need:

  • Better decision making and leadership

  • All governments working together and our corporate and philanthropic sectors doing their bit

  • A greater understanding of diversity, inclusion and cultural acceptance in sport

  • Gender equity in the provision of sporting facilities, to break down the barriers for women’s participation in sport

This is the case for change.

We fundamentally assert, backed by research, that universally, investment in grassroots sport and fostering youth participation in active recreation is investing in the future of our nation.

This is an undeniable case for change and it needs to be led by those who make decisions, and therefore can make a difference.

People like yourselves.

Sport is a true antidote and as my late mother used to say ‘an ounce of prevention is far far better than a ton of cure’.

In other words there is no downsides to any political party and only upsides in investing in greater participation in active sport and recreation across our country.

The time is right to reinvest to ensure future generations have the opportunities to which we have all enjoyed.

This event and the initiatives behind it, with the support of the Australian Sports Foundation, has been a bold undertaking.

Thank you all for your support in making this a reality.

Together we have the ability, and the power to make change.

This is the purpose of bringing such a high calibre audience together tonight and in the future.

I put to you that increasing our country’s investment in grassroots sport and active recreation can make a significant difference and long term improvement to the nation’s health, well-being, community resilience and the lives of individuals.

Julia, we look forward to your oration.

And with these opening remarks, I’d like you all to put your hands together to welcome the 27th Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Julia Gillard to deliver the inaugural Prime Ministers’ Sporting Oration.

CommentaryAnna Poulos