The surfers who are revolutionising the way all sports are funded and the petition you can sign to help make it happen.
Sydney longboarder Lucy Small made waves in April 2021 when she called out the unfairness of a surfing competition paying female winners less than half the prize money of men in the same comp.
Today, she is charging on a new campaign to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen in sports clubs and competitions across NSW.
Together with journalist, surfer and Tracks writer Kate Allman, the pair has founded a petition for the NSW government to consider updating rules surrounding state government sports funding.
The petition asks the government to look at gender equity in sports clubs applying for grants or funding, prior to awarding those grants. Clubs applying for funding would need to show they offer equal prize money, fair opportunities, facilities and employment for both women and men competing under state government-funded sports associations such as Surfing NSW or AFL NSW.
“We’re calling for gender equity to be made a condition for sporting organisations to receive state government grants, funding, and tenders,” the campaign says on its website. “We request the NSW government change its requirements for community clubs to specify gender equity and equal opportunity as a pre-condition for the club to receive funding, grants and tenders.”
The women have called their petition “Equal pay for equal play”, which is inspired by a similar campaign that ran in California in 2019, when female surfers competing at the infamous Mavericks big-wave competition were earning less than half the prize money of their male counterparts. Surfers convinced the Californian government to introduce an “equal pay for equal play” law, making it illegal to pay women and men differently in athletic events held on state land.
The NSW campaign, which launched officially on Thursday, does not ask for a criminal law change but focuses on how the state government should direct its funding – to organisations with equal opportunity for both genders to participate in sport. It has already garnered support from a coalition of athletes in a range of fields.
Professional surfer, writer and documentary maker Lauren Hill lent feedback to the wording of the petition, as did AFLW star and former Rugby Sevens Olympic gold medallist Chloe Dalton. Both athletes will back the movement, along with GWS Giants captain Alicia Eva, NRLW player and radio presenter Katie Brown, and former Sydney Swans AFL player Brandon Jack.
Podcaster and founder of the women in sport platform Ladies Who League, Mary Konstantopoulos, has enthusiastically supported the campaign from its inception. And Australian Hockeyroos players Madison Fitzpatrick and Kalindi Commerford, who currently live and train in Perth but are both originally from NSW, told Tracks they would be behind it 100 per cent.
“Put us down in bold,” Commerford said.
Lucy and Kate – surfers who became friends after Kate covered the initial prizemoney incident for Tracks – collaborated with surfing lawyer and Vice President of the Australasian Lawyers Surfing Association, Jess de Simone, at the campaign’s inception. Jess and Lucy approached Surfing Australia and Surfing NSW to ask for changes in the surfing rule books to prevent unequal prize money. The associations have agreed to introduce a new rule requiring that surf clubs competing or organised under the government-funded association banners must offer equal prize money to both genders.
But Lucy said the surfers were keen to take further action to prevent gender inequity in other sports.
“After that experience and the clear disparity in prize money, the community response and big media response to the situation, it made me think that we are in a time in which people are ready for change,” Lucy told Tracks.
“Surfing Australia updated its rule book, and we’re grateful for that, but it’s not comprehensive in terms of addressing widespread change for women in sport. As quickly as rule books can change, they can be changed back. It made me think we need to have legislative change. It made sense to expand to all sports – because this is an issue across the board for women and girls in sport.”
Lucy met with NSW Minister for Sport Natalie Ward, as well as Chief Executive of the Office of Sport, Karen Jones, and Jo Haylen, the Member for Summer Hill to discuss the idea in June. The Minister for Sport said in correspondence that “maximising investment in women’s sport across the sporting sector, corporate sector, media and government is a key objective under the NSW Government’s Her Sport Her Way strategy” but did not specify whether her government could make changes to the sporting grants and tender process.
Labor Minister Haylen, the Member of Parliament in Lucy’s electorate, is sponsoring the petition, which is listed online on the NSW parliament website.
Under state parliament rules, any ePetition that gains 20,000 signatures must be debated in NSW Parliament.
To add your support and sign the petition click here.