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Our Performance

This reporting period has seen two significant and unprecedented events.

During the summer enormous bushfires tore through the country burning more than 19 million hectares and killing 33 people. Smoke haze from bushfires caused air quality to deteriorate to levels never seen before with Canberra’s air quality rated as ‘worst in the world’ during January 2020. As a result, sporting events were cancelled, and training venues closed.

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared a global COVID-19 pandemic and on 17 March all public facing facilities on the AIS Site were closed. On 24 March the Japanese Government, the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee officially agreed to postpone the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021.

In Australia, the introduction of mandatory government restrictions, aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19, resulted in all sport being placed on hold.

The ASC has adapted and responded to these challenges, harnessing the strength of our mobile workforce to lead the sector through these unprecedented times.

MORE AUSTRALIANS MOVE MORE OFTEN

Key activities

In 2019–20, the national Move It AUS physical activity awareness campaign continued to encourage all Australians to find time to be physically active. Advertising to support the awareness campaign was in market from October through to March 2020 but the Move It Month initiative, that was developed and planned for delivery in April 2020, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key activities undertaken during 2019–20 included:

Embedding physical activity through greater engagement and involvement of children and youth in sport

  • Delivery of the Sporting Schools program funded 6,513 schools and provided 1,846,720 participation opportunities

Increasing awareness and reach in areas which have direct impact on physical activity and physical literacy levels

  • Round 1 of the Move it AUS Participation Grants program was completed with $18 million invested to support 62 Move It AUS participation projects.
  • $11.2 million was invested over two years to July 2019–20 to support Move It AUS Better Ageing projects.
  • Almost $9 million was allocated in participation grants.
  • Supporting the delivery of projects funded under the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program.

Our results

Table 1: Our results against Strategic Priority: Embedding physical activity through greater engagement and involvement of children and youth in sport

Performance criteria

Increase in children aged 5–14 years participating in physical activity

Target

30 per cent of children in Australia aged 5 to 14 years participate for at least

3.2 hours per week in organised physical activity outside school hours.

Result

29.3 per cent*

Supporting statement

Organised physical activity outside school hours is slightly up from 28.8 per cent 12 months ago.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019–23 Page 20.

*Launched in October 2015, AusPlay is a national population tracking survey delivered by the ASC. It provides data on sport and physical activity participation for the government, sport sector and Australian public, to help them better understand the sport participation landscape and inform decision-making. In 2019–20, AusPlay published two releases, covering the 2018–19 financial year (released November 2019) and the 2019 calendar year (released April 2020).

Table 2: Our results against Strategic Priority: Embedding physical activity through greater engagement and involvement of children and youth in sport

Performance criteria

An increase in the time dedicated to sport and physical activity in primary schools

Target

60 per cent of funded* primary schools report an increase in the time dedicated to sport and physical activity compared to the previous year.

Result

67 per cent

Supporting statement

The target of 60 per cent was achieved in 2019–20, with 67 per cent of schools on average reporting an increase in sport and physical activity at the end of term one 2020.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019–23 Page 20.

*Schools funded under the Sporting Schools Program.

Table 3: Our results against Strategic Priority: Increasing awareness and reach in areas which have direct impact on physical activity and physical literacy levels

Performance criteria

Increase in Australians, aged 15 and above, participating in physical activity

Target

An increase of 207,000 Australians aged 15 or more meeting current physical activity guidelines for their age group, when compared to 2018–19.

Result

406,531

Supporting statement

The target was achieved. 35.9 per cent of Australians aged 15 or more meeting current physical activity guidelines for their age group.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019–23 Page 22.

Case Study: Clearinghouse for Sport

The ASC’s Clearinghouse for Sport (Clearinghouse) is a sector-wide information and knowledge sharing strategy. The Clearinghouse brings together Australia’s leading sport and active recreation agencies—using the ASC as the principal information coordination point—to share news, evidence and insights about sport and human performance to ensure the Australian sport sector maintains equitable access to high quality information and evidence based resources.

The Clearinghouse is used by a broad range of people engaged in sport, including Australia’s leading coaches, athletes, sport scientists, administrators, officials and community volunteers. The Clearinghouse website plays a central role in activating the knowledge sharing community and connecting people with complementary expertise to the sector’s information and evidence base resources.

  • During the 2019–20 reporting period, Clearinghouse members performed 1,105,303 information transactions on the website.
  • Clearinghouse membership continued to grow by approximately 300 new members per month, taking the total active members to 25,733 at 30 June 2020.
  • The Clearinghouse Daily Sports News with its 14,829 subscribers continues to be the leading information and news alerting service to the sector.

In response to COVID-19, the Clearinghouse continues to collect and disseminate critical information resources across all sport and recreation jurisdictions.

Table 4: Our results against Strategic Priority: Increasing awareness and reach in areas which have direct impact on physical activity and physical literacy levels

Performance criteria

Build awareness in all Australians, particularly parents, about the ways they can introduce sport and physical activity into daily living

Target

4 per cent of Australians recall the Move It AUS campaign on a prompted basis.

2 per cent of Australians recall the Move It AUS campaign on an unprompted basis.

Result

29 per cent prompted

21 per cent unprompted

Supporting statement

The Move It AUS campaign was delayed in early January due to bushfires in

New South Wales and Victoria and was suspended in mid-March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019–23 Page 22.

Case Study: Sporting Schools

Sporting Schools is an Australian Government initiative designed to help schools to increase children’s participation in sport, and to connect them with community sporting opportunities.

Research shows that quality sport and physical activity in schools has a positive influence on children’s confidence, competence and motivation to be active at school and throughout their life. Sporting Schools programs are provided free to children and their families to help students build capability to be active for life.

Since Sporting Schools started in 2015, over 7,500 schools have received funding. This has provided more than 7 million participant opportunities to get students active, engaged and having fun while sampling a variety of different sports.

To help achieve this, Sport Australia has partnered with more than 30 NSOs. There is a program for primary schools, and a targeted program for Year 7 and 8 students in secondary schools.

The Sporting Schools program distributed $40 million during 2019–20, to address a number of important goals. These are:

  • to improve children’s fundamental movement skills
  • to encourage lifelong participation in physical activity
  • increase the awareness of the value of sport in schools
  • engage children in high quality sporting programs
  • connect children with sport in their local communities
  • to develop the capability and capacity of sport to drive nationwide participation growth.

School: Adelaide East Education Centre, SA

Funded amount: $1,800

Number of students: 50

Sport: Golf

In Term 1 2020 the school was awarded $1,800 in funding to deliver a minimum of four sessions of golf to 50 students. With limited resources and space to deliver physical activity programs, the school relied on an oval provided by a nearby secondary school, a half-sized basketball court in their grounds, and equipment brought in by external coaches.


Jenny Bonnett, a teacher at Adelaide East Education Centre, said: “We have been spoilt by the Sporting Schools grants [which allowed us] to bring in coaches with their equipment to deliver sporting programs to our students. The school designated an afternoon each week to sport, with a professional golf coach coming into the school to deliver a program [Sporting Schools] is a true blessing to our school. We designated Wednesday afternoons to sport coaching for the whole school — a great move which got all students active and all classes integrating with each other. You have made 50 special kids so happy.”


School: St Clare of Assisi Primary School, ACT

Funded amount: $2,400

Number of students: 134

Sport: AFL

Alison Graeber from the school wrote saying: “we were successful in securing funding for AFL clinics for our students … and [I] easily organised our Kinder and Year 1 students to participate in four weeks of AFL clinics with an amazing coach, Tim, who made the sessions great fun and an amazing physical and learning experience every Thursday; the students were so excited. They were taught techniques and received great guidance in kicking and handballing. We shared our successful program with all school parents in our newsletter, which also encouraged all students and parents to find their 30.”


School: St Joseph’s School, QLD

Funded amount: $2,500

Number of students: 72

Sport: Gymnastics

Petrea Hass from the school commented: “Sporting Schools has provided an opportunity for every student to participate in professionally delivered sports programs. We do not have a [health and physical education] HPE teacher at our school due to the small number of students and without Sporting Schools our students would not have (had) this opportunity to learn new skills and develop their interest in different sports.”


School: St Monica’s Primary School, VIC

Funded amount: $2,000

Number of students: 135

Sport: Badminton


Kristian Manche from the school commented: “Many of our students have limited opportunities to engage in sports programs and sports clubs outside of school. Sporting Schools programs are a brilliant way to give our students these opportunities, and for our families to become more aware of the local clubs in our community and increase awareness of the physical, social and mental health benefits of joining these sports clubs.”

BUILDING THE CAPABILITY OF SPORT TO CREATE A ROBUST, CONNECTED INDUSTRY

Key activities

In 2019–20, Sport Australia focused on supporting the sport industry by helping sports to use contemporary business models and implement more efficient systems of governance and management. The focus in 2019–20 was on the areas of strategy, workforce and financial management.

Modern technology continues to disrupt and revolutionise the world of sport and Sport Australia is setting the standard digitally. Sport Australia created SportAUS Connect, a shared platform to connect the sector’s organisations and software vendors through data and analytics, to help enable sports to respond to consumers’ needs and ultimately improve commercial outcomes.

Key Activities undertaken in 2019–20 included:

Building workforce capability across the sector

  • The Sport Governance Principles were updated using an extensive consultation process. This included: face to face co-design workshops in each state and territory, online jams for the whole sport sector, and targeted design labs in three jurisdictions. More than 380 people from over 70 sports were involved in the process.
  • Supporting governance reform for national sporting organisations for people with a disability (NSODs) and supporting targeted national sporting organisations (NSOs) with business transformation.
  • Developed and launched a Return to Sport Toolkit with Hockey Australia. The toolkit, focuses on giving community sporting clubs and associations a roadmap for the safest return to sport at all levels.

Improving the digital capability of the Australian sports sector

  • Released a co-designed cloud-based data platform template that is currently being piloted with Cycling Australia.
  • Piloted SportAUS Connect platform and co-designed cloud-based sport data model template with Cycling Australia to enable them to integrate their third-party membership, event and customer relationship management systems so that Cycling can better understand and engage with their customers.
  • Continued development of a Sport Design System to enable sporting organisations to launch new digital services quickly and professionally: and a Digital Marketing Playbook to help sports activate and measure customer engagement activities and grow participation.
  • Promoted the Play for Purpose raffle to NSOs, state sporting organisations (SSOs) and sporting clubs. The raffle is free for clubs to join and provides an online platform to support fundraising. There was an increase in sporting clubs signing up over the year with the number going from 195 in July 2019 to 304 by 30 June 2020.

Our results

Table 5: Our results against Strategic Priority: Building workforce capability across the sector

Performance criteria

Improving the organisational capability of targeted NSOs

Target

Four sports transition to a whole-of-sport business model incorporating the three operating model streams of strategy, workforce and financial management.

Result

Two sports have transitioned to a whole-of-sport business model incorporating the three operating streams of strategy, finance and workforce. Another six sports have transitioned to a whole-of-sport model for at least one operating stream and are actively working towards transition for the remaining streams.

Supporting statement

Sport Australia has focused on supporting NSOs to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in their whole-of-sport operating model. Over 2019–20, Sport Australia supported 22 sports to consider opportunities for a whole-of-sport business model.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019–23 Page 28.

Case Study: Return to Sport Toolkit

Sport Australia, in partnership with Hockey Australia, developed a Return to Sport Toolkit to give sporting organisations a set of resources to support the safe return to sport at all levels. The Toolkit resources built on the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment and the Australian Government’s National principles for the resumption of sport and recreation activities by giving operational guidance and considerations that organisations should take into account to appropriately resume sport and their club operations.

The Toolkit contained comprehensive checklists, templates and guides for all sized sporting organisations. The Toolkit works through four stages:

  • Plan — implement plans, processes and systems to provide safe sport environments
  • Prepare — ensure safe facility and participant practices
  • Respond — be prepared for management of a COVID-19 outbreak
  • Recover — consideration of protocols to optimise good public and participant health into the future.

The static documents were supported by four videos presented by sector representatives from NSO, SSO and community sport. There was extensive national media coverage featuring the Sport Australia CEO and Director of Sport Governance and Strategy.

Table 6: Our results against Strategic Priority: Building workforce capability across the sector

Performance criteria

Improving the financial performance and financial capability of NSOs

Target

Less than 15 per cent of assessed NSOs and NSODs are rated as Higher Risk or Extreme Risk under the annual financial assessment tool.

Result

23.3 percent of NSOs and NSODs were rated as Higher Risk or Extreme Risk.*

Supporting statement

Sport Australia continued to support NSOs and NSODs to strengthen their financial performance and financial capability.

The ASPR includes an annual financial assessment tool, which reviews the financial position, financial performance and financial capability and management of funded NSOs and NSODs. Those rated as Higher Risk or Extreme Risk are monitored more frequently.

Sport Australia facilitated fortnightly forums to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and collaborated with NSOs and NSODs on the Sport COVID-19 Financial Data Collection project to support evidence based decision-making with regard to the pandemic response.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019–23 Page 28.

* Sport Australia updated its sport financial risk categories in 2019–20 to include four risk ratings (up from three in 2018–19). The new ratings are: Lower Risk; Moderate Risk; Higher Risk; and Extreme Risk (new). In addition, Sport Australia streamlined the reporting metrics that underpinned the ASPR ratings

Table 7: Our results against Strategic Priority: Improving the digital capability of the Australian sports sector

Performance criteria

Improving the digital capability of the Australian sports sector

Target

30 per cent of NSOs completing Sport.Scan have an overall digital maturity score of 50 and above.

10 per cent of NSOs completing Sport.Scan have an overall digital maturity score of 60 and above.

Result

Sport.Scan was not conducted this year.

Supporting statement

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic an assessment of NSOs digital maturity was deferred to the 2020–21 reporting cycle.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019–23 Page 30.

CREATING NATIONAL PRIDE AND INSPIRATION THROUGH INTERNATIONAL SPORTING SUCCESS

Key activities

The unprecedented challenges of 2019–20 required the AIS to utilise our relationships and network across NSOs, NIN and our Games partners to identify and be responsive to the sector needs as each new hurdle arose. The impact of the extensive bushfires and related smoke pollution, and the COVID-19 pandemic have provided significant stress and uncertainty for athletes, coaches, support staff and high-performance sports programs internationally.

The AIS response required an agile approach and refinement to our planned activities for 2019–20, originally intended to be an Olympic/Paralympic Games final preparation year, to address the immediate health and wellbeing concerns across the sector.

Restrictions as a result of COVID-19 have significantly impacted programs including athlete training and qualification. The AIS has reprioritised support to the high-performance sector in light of the Tokyo 2021 announcement, with initial focus on athlete wellbeing and support.

The Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement (AW&E) manager network has been a critical resource for athletes, coaches and support staff within NSOs and the National Institute Network (NIN). The AW&E managers embedded in sports provide a known and independent contact point, which is of particular importance for athletes.

Key activities undertaken in 2019–20:

Leading and enabling a united and collaborative high-performance system that supports Australian athletes to achieve podium success

  • The AIS team, led by CMO Dr David Hughes, developed the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in collaboration with sport CMOs around Australia and in consultation with the Federal Government’s CMOs.
  • The NHPSS was endorsed by Federal and State governments in November 2019.
  • The AIS delivered an expanding base of high-performance camps on site and at the AIS European Training Centre (ETC). Due to the COVID-19 outbreak all high-performance camps were cancelled or postponed for a number of months. However, the AIS has commenced development of a digital engagement platform resource that will support and supplement future athlete and coach camps on site through the delivery of virtual offerings.
  • The majority of planned high-performance capability and capacity initiatives (across people, process and system development) met their objectives and timelines, with a shift to virtual delivery in response to COVID-19.
  • The AIS established a panel of providers who can provide core competency learning and development packages for utilisation across the sector, which will reduce complexity risks associated with procurement activities.
  • The Federal Government announced in June 2019 an additional funding boost of $54.14 million for high performance sport over two years for Performance Pathways and Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement (AW&E), came as welcome news to the sector.
  • Developed and implemented the National Performance Pathways Strategy. The Performance Pathway system capability support series (AIS ELEVATE) was adapted to support and connect the workforce virtually to address impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Key activity continued during this period including a successful e-Forum series, local pathway e-networking events and engagement with international pathway networks.
  • Implemented a Gold Medal Ready (GMR) Digital Transformation Strategy with the aim of connecting more than 300 Athletes, Coaches and Performance Staff already involved in GMR Activities (including special operations camps, educational workshops, alumni forums and question and answer panels, Alumni Connect One to One Guidance) to our online platform to be called GMR Online.
  • Leading the high-performance sector on health systems design across NSOs and NIN — more than 140 athletes planned to undertake the Athlete Availability Program. A number of planned Athlete Availability projects with specific NSOs were postponed following the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Commenced work on the Australian Sport Data Network (ASDN) to offer Sport and the NIN shared access to cloud-based infrastructure for data lake, data warehouse and data base storage retention and quality assurance. By building authentication, authorisation and appropriately governed access — Australian coaches, athletes, researchers and scientists can utilise data to generate success for our athletes. Properly engineered data systems permit longitudinal usage of significant datasets and allows researchers to develop the next generation of advantage for our athletes. ASDN incorporates existing data sources e.g. Athlete Management System, and adds others data sources as required.
  • Utilising cutting edge rapid build technology, AIS engineers built and delivered more than 300 individualised pieces of equipment to para and able athletes.
  • Delivered complete Swimming Analysis tool based on video machine learning that generates 1,250 data points per lap per athlete for all athletes in the pool real-time. Previous solution delivered 3–10 data points per lap for one athlete an hour after competition, highlighting the significant increase in data capability.

Evolving a system-wide approach to athlete wellbeing for athletes to engage with and inspire the community

  • The Mental Health Referral Network (MHRN) was expanded to cover our alumni and talent pathway athletes, coaches and staff. This has proven invaluable during COVID-19 and has been complemented by extending mental health literacy services to help the sector to understand how to refer into the network, and to look after themselves and their peers.
  • Despite travel limitations and COVID-19 protocols, the AW&E team effectively connected athletes with the community including launching three national community engagement programs — Share a Yarn with 10 athletes, Bite Back with 30 athletes, and Lifeline Community Custodians with 20 athletes. Four community events for NSOs were developed and two were launched to assist in system capability: Clean Up Australia Day, ANZAC Day, National Volunteers Week and NAIDOC Week.
  • For the first time, a critical incident framework has been developed and is being implemented across high-performance funded NSOs and the NIN. The framework takes a whole-of-organisation approach including business, technology and high-performance sport- specific scenarios. While smoke and bushfires and now COVID-19 have impacted our ability to deliver face-to-face education and implementation support, the AIS has taken an agile approach and delivered key components of the program via virtual workshops.

Our results

Table 8: Our results against Strategic Priority: Leading and enabling a united and collaborative high-performance system that supports Australian athletes to achieve podium success

Performance criteria

Percentage of high-performance funded sports rated by the AIS as achieving their benchmark targets

Target

On average, 85 per cent of high-performance funded NSOs performance outcomes are achieved.

Result

77 per cent* of sports who had a benchmark event before the end of March 2020 achieved performance outcomes.

Supporting statement

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on international competition around the world is well known, unprecedented and affected nearly a fifth of sports. There were 50 new world champions across Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports in 2019—20, however, the high-performance sport system was not on track to meet the target in this strategic priority.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019—23 Page 42.

*Due to restrictions as a result of COVID-19, all NSOs suspended or significantly modified their high-performance programs. There has been no change in benchmark event results since March 2020 due to the cancellation of international competitions across all sports, and there were no further opportunities for NSOs to achieve other targets up to the end of 2019—20.

Australia had qualified 414 athlete quota spots for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remaining qualification events for Tokyo in 2021 are being defined in the context of travel restrictions.

Table 9: Our results against Strategic Priority: Leading and enabling a united and collaborative high-performance system that supports Australian athletes to achieve podium success

Performance criteria

Community Perceptions of Australia’s international sporting success

Target

Improvement in public perception of Australia’s international sporting success as measured through the Sport Australia Community Engagement Monitor.

Result

80 per cent of respondents who were thinking about Australia’s athletes and teams overall said that they could make them feel pride ‘at least quite a bit’, and 15 per cent said they could be made to feel ‘extremely’ proud. The equivalent figures for feeling inspired were slightly lower, at 71 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

Supporting statement

High-performance sport can and does create feelings of pride and inspiration in the community and data shows that these feelings are more strongly evoked by the Olympic/ Commonwealth Games/Paralympics facets of high-performance sport compared to other high-level sporting activities.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019—23 Page 42.

Case Study: COVID Reboot Leadership and Innovation

The AIS Medical team, led by CMO Dr David Hughes, developed the AIS Framework for Rebooting Sport in a COVID-19 Environment, with sport CMOs across Australia and in consultation with the Federal Government CMOs. The Framework formed the basis of the Federal Government’s Return to Sport Principles across high-performance and community sport. The AIS was the first organisation in the world to publicly release and publish an evidence-based process for safely resuming sport in a COVID-19 environment (https://www.jsams.org/article/S1440-2440(20)30527-2/fulltext).

The AIS Medicine expertise has been integral in advising NSO/NIN partners in addressing complex concerns and challenges. AIS has been agile in response to matters raised by high-performance partners, developing and providing guidance with short turnaround times. AIS Medicine continues to lead the high-performance system on COVID-19 related issues such as interstate travel, overseas travel, COVID-19 screening of athletes and preparation for the Tokyo Games.

AIS Medicine is working with ACT Health, the Commonwealth Deputy Chief Medical Officer and others in using mobile technology, with the ambition of having in-house COVID-19 testing capability deployed for the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams in Tokyo.

Case Study: A unified and collaborative National High-Performance Sports Strategy

The NHPSS was endorsed by Federal and State governments in November 2019. The release of the strategy signals the first time that all Federal and State governments have united to deliver an integrated approach to provide opportunities for aspiring athletes moving through the development pathway and to foster the common goal of national pride and inspiration through international sporting success.

Aligned with Sport 2030, the NHPSS clearly articulates the prime responsibilities and shared commitment of the sports, Federal, State and Territory government agencies to develop and operate a world-leading high-performance system for Australian sport.

The NHPSS revolves around athletes, coaches and sports and sets out principles, policies and practices that clarify and simplify system partner roles in delivering our mission to achieve sustained international sporting success. The NHPSS recognises our champion athletes as role models as we inspire physical activity for future generations.

The commitment and collaboration achieved through the NHPSS is a critical step in uniting and leveraging these innovative approaches across the sector towards the common goal of building sustainable winning systems for Australian athletes.

Table 10: Our results against Strategic Priority: Develop system capability to provide for athlete personal development and wellbeing

Performance criteria

Develop system capability to provide for athlete personal development and wellbeing

Target

All NSOs receiving AW&E specific funding implement priority recommendations from their respective national framework.

Result

Of the 27 NSOs that have received AW&E funding:

  • 24 have a National AW&E Manager in place
  • 26 will have a completed (or are awaiting sign-off by their board) AW&E Framework
  • Of those sports with completed Frameworks, 71 per cent of framework priorities have been completed or commenced

Supporting statement

The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted NSO resources during this reporting period, however, the remaining NSO is currently developing an AW&E Framework and is expected to have it completed by the end of 2020.

Source: ASC Corporate Plan 2019—23 Page 44

Case Study: Mental Health Referral Network

The AIS MHRN has continued to grow and evolve over the past year. This has seen the network expand to more than 40 practitioners, across disciplines including Psychology, Neuropsychology, and Psychiatry. In response to the growing demand for specialist support for athletes with disordered eating, the MHRN has also recruited psychologists and dieticians with specific experience in treating disordered eating. In line with increased government support for eating disorder treatment in the general community, the availability of support for athletes with disordered eating was expanded to offer athletes a expedited referral process that ensures they are quickly triaged into appropriate support.

Asking for help for a mental health issue can be confronting, and sometimes approached with ambivalence. This is often true for individuals experiencing an eating disorder, where accessing treatment can feel like a loss of control of food and weight. Individuals sitting on waiting lists for this type of treatment, means more time to waver in their determination to seek treatment and more time to consolidate unhelpful behaviours around food and weight. The research tells us that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcomes, and the MHRN is committed to intervening at the earliest possible stage.

Over the past year, the MHRN has assisted a number of athletes presenting with disordered eating behaviours through this program. Earlier in the year an athlete who had been contemplating treatment for some time, self-referred to the MHRN in the context of restricted eating, over-exercising, body checking, and distress around body image. Upon receiving this call, the MHRN organised for this individual to be assessed the following day. Following this assessment, the individual was accepted for treatment the following week under the MHRN Disordered Eating criterion, meaning access of up to 20 sessions with a psychologist, 10 sessions with a dietician, and psychiatric support at no cost to the athlete.

The AIS Mental Health Team is proud to be able to offer meaningful and readily-available mental health support to athletes, coaches, and high-performance staff, and look forward to continuing this important work in the year ahead.

Case Study: Share a Yarn

In May 2020, AIS Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement launched a community engagement initiative designed to connect high-performance athletes with Indigenous communities to learn about country, traditional owners of the land, history and culture, and to assist athletes to be better role models for the Australian community.

Thirteen athlete ambassadors were selected to be involved in Share a Yarn. The ambassadors are a combination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) athletes and non-ATSI athletes and will be involved for a 12-month period that will involve community visits, follow-up contact and support to communities through online video messaging, community event appearances and sharing their learning back to their sport.

As part of National Reconciliation Week, the ambassadors took part in activities with the Indigenous youth of Arlparra, a remote community 200km from Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

With physical visits to communities on hold as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, athletes utilised the Share a Yarn online video platform to ask questions of youth in Arlparra through the engagement programs offered by Wanta Aboriginal Corporation, seeking to learn about aspects of culture, land, history and peoples and how they can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

“As a proud Indigenous woman I am excited to see the AIS develop the Share a Yarn initiative, and prioritise the importance of learning and engaging with the different Indigenous cultures within Australia.”

Olympian race-walker and Share a Yarn ambassador Beki Smith.