Dr Rhonda Jolly
In August 2008, the Government commissioned an Independent Sport
Panel (ISP) to investigate what reforms may be required to ensure
the Australian sporting system was prepared for future challenges.
The ISP made a number of recommendations for actions it believed
were necessary if Australia was to continue to be successful at the
elite sports level. Importantly, it also considered that all
Australians should be able to compete in sport and recommended
corresponding actions which it believed would improve the health
and well-being of the population.
There was some controversy surrounding some of the ISP’s
recommendations. This was particularly the case with regard to its
suggestion that more attention should be paid to grassroots sports
which were part of the ‘national ethos’, rather than
the quest to gain top-five status in Olympic sports. The ISP also
recommended that the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) should be
relieved of its oversight of the Australian Institute of Sport
(AIS) and the AIS amalgamated with state and territory
The Government released its response to the ISP report in
conjunction with this Budget. With two exceptions, the Government
has signalled its support for the ISP’s recommendations.
These exceptions relate to alternative funding options, most
notably to consideration of a system whereby the cost of sports
participation could be reduced. It could be argued, however, that
in its response to the ISP report the Government does not appear to
have engaged with the ideological underpinning of some of the
ISP’s recommendations, especially those relating to the
balance between funding for elite and grassroots sports. This may
possibly be largely a result of their controversial nature. On the
other hand, budget measures indicate that the Government has made
some attempt to take the recommendations into account. It is likely
to become clearer to what extent this has been successful once
further details of the strategy are revealed.
Investment of $1.2 billion is to be made in sporting programs at
the elite and community levels as part of the Government’s
‘new strategic direction’ and ‘integrated
whole-of-sport approach to the Australian sport
new approach will target three areas: increasing grassroots
participation, strengthening pathways linking grassroots
participation and ensuring Australia continues to excel in
The new sports strategy will also involve close cooperation
between the states and territories, the ASC and other government
agencies. At the grassroots level, funding will be allocated for a
national volunteer program, participation plans, providing coaches
with access to training and support to encourage participation by
people experiencing disadvantage. Elite level sport will benefit
from an extra $324.8 million for the ASC ‘to create a secure
platform to plan beyond Budget cycles’. Funding to the ASC will sustain various
high performance, coaching and talent identification programs.
Sports science and medicine will also receive support.
One particularly innovative initiative to be implemented under
the Government’s new sport plan will require elite athletes
to contribute at the grass roots level as volunteer coaches, sports
officials or administrators. There was some suggestion during the
ISP’s deliberations that elite athletes should make some
contribution, either financial or in kind, to their training, but
this was firmly rejected for a number of reasons; principally, the
belief that these athletes contribute to social cohesion, national
pride and the nation’s standing in the world. This view is not without its
critics and some continue to argue that HECS-like arrangements
should apply to elite athletes. Depending on how strictly the requirements are
enforced, it could be argued that this initiative goes some way
towards ensuring athletes repay some of the investment the nation
has made in developing their skills.
Little comment has been made on the sport measures in the
Budget. John Coates, President of the Australian Olympic Committee,
was satisfied with the budget outcomes. He had been critical of the
ISP report, and had lobbied against the idea that too much was
spent on gaining Olympic success to the detriment of general sport
participation. Coates considered everyone involved in sport, and
those who believe sport should have a role to play in society in
creating a healthier nation and in enhancing Australia’s
international reputation, would also be delighted.
One sports journalist has wryly commented that the sports budget
measures amount in essence to ensuring there are fewer fat people
and more Olympic gold medal glory in the future. From this perspective the
Government has appeared to have got the aim right. Whether the
balance between elite and grassroots funding is equally balanced
will be more obvious as further details of programs funded
. Independent Sport Panel, The future of
sport in Australia, (the Crawford Report), Commonwealth of
Australia, Canberra, 2009, viewed 14 May 2010,
. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC),
‘Big codes welcome Crawford report’, ABC Grandstand
Sport website, 17 November 2009, viewed 14 May 2010, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/11/17/2745289.htm;
and the Crawford Report, op. cit.
. Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2010–11: budget related paper no.1.11:
Health and Ageing Portfolio, Commonwealth of Australia,
Canberra, 2010, p. 377.
. K Ellis (Minster for Sport), $325
million boost to sport and getting more Australians active,
media release, 11 May 2010, viewed 14 May
. Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no.2: 2010–11, Commonwealth of
Australia, Canberra, p. 208.
. Australian Commonwealth Games Association,
submission to Independent Sports Panel Inquiry, n.d., viewed
. For instance, R Denniss, Funding sport
fairly, an income contingent loans scheme for elite sports
training, Australia Institute, 10 February 2003.
. J Browning, ‘AOC says budget 'ticks
all the boxes' ABC Grandstand Sport website, 11 May 2010, viewed 14
. D Lewis, ‘$1.2bn to trim and support
athletes’, The Age, 12 May 2010, p. 7.
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