Facility upgrades open the door for female players

Access to gender-specific or unisex change rooms is an important step to increase women’s participation in sport, according to some members of WA’s sporting community.

In August last year, the state government announced a $250,000 initiative to upgrade change rooms and toilets in grassroots clubs to provide for female members.

Members of The East Fremantle Football Club and the Melville City Hockey Club said state-funded upgrades to their facilities last year helped to reduce barriers for women wanting to get involved.

West Coast Eagles AFLW player Brianna Green, who trains at East Fremantle Football Club, said the upgrades had been a positive step to accommodate female athletes.

AFLW player Brianna Green. Photo: Emma Beaumont.

“The bathroom went under renovation late last year. Before renovations, the shared change room had one cubical, an open urinal, and no segregated showers,” she said.

“We now have two toilet cubicles, five segregated shower cubicles, and the urinal has been removed.”

Ms Green said the renovations had helped female members feel more accepted in their club.

“It’s a sign that the club is starting to appreciate women’s sport a bit more, and not having to wait in line for the toilet in case a man is using the urinal has made a huge difference,” she said.

Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray said women and girls were turned off sport by having to use men’s change rooms or not having access to any change rooms at all.

East Fremantle Football Club is one of the clubs to receive funding. Photo: Emma Beaumont.

Melville City Hockey Club president Gary Bowater said the upgrades to the club have been welcomed by female players.

Mr Bowater said the club has seen an increase in membership after installing a new female change room.

“Our female members feel a lot safer with these upgrades,” he said.

“As well as putting in more female toilets, there are more private spaces for women to change and prepare for games.”

Ms Green said changes at a community level were a positive step, but more needed to be done to create opportunities for female athletes.

“I’m aware other clubs with female members have not received funding, so there the issue of why some clubs are given these necessary upgrades while others aren’t,” she said.

“The fact that the sporting experience is not equal for all women is something that needs work.”

Mr Bowater shared Ms Green’s opinion, saying he was aware of other clubs that were in need of an upgrade.

“While we are very grateful for the funding we have received, it is clear that there are other clubs which need the funding just as much that haven’t received anything,” he said.

The state government said they would continue to roll out community club funding this year.