Minister points to strong leadership as the foundation for the future of sport
The Minister for Sport Kate Lundy gave the keynote address at the 2012 Australian Tennis Conference.
Tennis is a sport of incredible historical and cultural importance to Australia.
Every year, Melbourne hosts the best of the Grand Slam tournaments, the Australian Open. As an annual sporting event it exemplifies the economic strength of sports tourism and quality content.
Its popularity is built on more than a century of achievement and our stars of the court have entertained generations of Australians on the international stage.
Our country’s sole Olympian at the very first modern Olympics in 1896, Edwin Flack, secured one of his three medals in tennis.
Our pioneering tennis champions – and this is a good chance for me to pay homage, like Norman Brookes and Adrian Quist – set the stage for our golden post-World War Two era when Frank Sedgman, Ken Rosewall and Lew Hoad were international stars.
Then came the legendary Rod Laver and Margaret Court, John Newcombe, Tony Roche and Evonne Goolagong, just to name a few more great Australian players of their era. Household names, everyone of them.
In more recent years and in an increasingly competitive global tennis environment we have produced more Grand Slam winners in Pat Cash, Pat Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt and our most recent hero, Samantha Stosur.
Each of these people have played their part in inspiring the next generation of kids to nag their parents for a tennis racquet so they can play too.
For my part in this rite of passage, it was 1974, and I was turning seven that summer. My special new racquet was endorsed by John Newcombe as my dad painstakingly explained, pointing out his signature embossed on the neck. I took my place on the straight lines practicing my forehands and backhands and volleys with all the other kids in our not so white ‘whites’ in country New South Wales.
These days this regimented repetition has been replaced by Hot Shots, a fantastic program that captures the tactical character of the elite game for beginners. It does this by turning learning practices of the past around, by getting to the interesting bits first, with the gross motor skills and strengths allowed to develop at pace with physical growth.
This significant innovation shows the importance of strong leadership in mapping a long term future, informed by tradition, but not constrained by it.
These themes sit at the heart of my thoughts tonight and I would like to begin by acknowledging the excellent work of the tennis community, in all of its facets. Like all sports, it is a community that has a shared passion and commitment, and is at its best when it works together.
I also want to outline what I see to be some of the important foundations for the future of Australian sport, continuing our tradition of forward thinking, strong governance and best practice administration.
Ladies and gentlemen, looking to the future, success for any sporting code or enterprise in the 21st century will require excellence across a range of endeavours.
Never before has competition for sponsors, for viewers and for participants been so fierce. This competition is being waged between sports and other pursuits, between sporting codes and between countries, as we vie not just to be the best in our sports, but also to host the very best events.
It is incumbent on us, as administrators and leaders, to ensure sport in Australia understands the intensity of this challenge. Meeting the challenge will require having the right systems, the right administrative processes and the right governance structures in place.
As Sports Minister, I see my role as one that leverages the best outcomes for the expenditure of taxpayers’ money on sport. It is a task informed by my view that sport is far more precious and meaningful than most people realise. It is about belonging, is about self-esteem – I’ve seen sport save people.
Each element, each part is essential in forming the whole. And the whole landscape is far more than the sum of its parts.
It’s about participation and social inclusion. It’s about visible pathways and the opportunity to perform and participate at the elite level. It’s about research, development, commercialisation and growing the industry of sport in this country. It’s about preserving and nurturing the egalitarian character of sport in Australia. It’s about volunteers, and taking the time to give something back. It’s about facilities and the physical space we live in. It’s about events and tourism, and making something bigger and better. It’s about content and coverage and it is about the physical and mental health that is derived from participation in sport. And it’s about good governance and administration. It’s all of these things.
I am thrilled that Steve placed the emphasis on participation in his opening remarks because we have contributed $750,000 in additional participation funding to Tennis Australia. They have used this wisely in my view, to increase the reach of the tennis Hot Shots program from 300,000 participants in 2011 and brought Cardio Tennis from being a bright idea into reality which was launched nationally earlier this year.
There are currently 2.2 million people in Australia playing tennis and I applaud your ambition to turn this into 4 million by 2016. The support you are providing for local clubs with your ambitious goal of developing or redeveloping over 1000 courts across Australia reflects the comprehensive approach needed to make these gains and participation sustainable.
From the Government’s perspective, there are excellent health and wellbeing outcomes derived from more kids and adults leading active lives through playing tennis regularly.
Some of these junior club players of today will be our champions of tomorrow – the more participants the greater the possibility for potential stars to have their chance to emerge. These players will in turn inspire the next generation of young kids to nag their parents for their first tennis racquet.
Tennis Australia understands how this continuum works and the importance of clear pathways to the top for these young aspirants.
I’d like to congratulate Tennis Australia for the streamlining of its athlete development pathway in partnership with the Australian Institute of Sport.
Talent identification and use of innovative training techniques and world leading sports science will see our top athletes continue to receive the cutting edge support that they need and deserve.
The results speak for themselves with several number one players for the year of their birth in the world; Ashleigh Barty, James Duckworth, Ben Mitchell and Luke Saville. And, of course, who could forget Samantha Stosur’s victory at the 2011 US Open outclassing Serena Williams in straight sets.
The Australian Government is proud to support tennis in Australia through the Australian Sports Commission. In 2011/12 the Government provided just over $1.4 million to support Tennis Australia’s AIS and participation programs.
It is fitting as we enter the Games of the 30th Olympiad in London to reflect on the enormous success Australia has enjoyed on the world stage and explore ways we can ensure this success continues.
Much of our considerable high performance sporting achievement over the past 30 years has been attributed to the consistent and considered policy and associated investment by Government.
The enormous and continued success of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the various state and territory-based institutes and academies have been imitated by others around the world. Staff in Australia’s high performance sports sector are among the most sought after in the world.
As Sports Minister, one of my duties is to ensure plans are being developed to maintain Australia’s rightful place as a world leader in the area of high performance sport.
While plans for the future are still being developed, I think it is important to make it clear that the investment in high performance sport will be focussed on how best we can assist our up and coming athletes achieve international success.
Australia’s goal should always be to keep ahead of the world and maintain the competitive advantages. We can’t assume that by doing the things that we’ve always done, that our success will be maintained.
The question I’m asking is, where is our next edge going to come from?
Fortunately, we’ve got great strengths in innovation. Powering ideas is the Government’s 10 year strategy to further enhance our capacity to innovate.
The AIS will be strengthened through drawing on all of these strengths by collaboration with academia, the best science, the best practices in coaching, administration and the allied health services as we optimise our potential.
A growing dynamic sports technology sector has the potential to underpin developments across the full spectrum of high performance.
To this end, the government has invested in the creation of the Australia Sports Technology Network. This initiative forms a platform for collaboration across universities, entrepreneurs and their start-up dynamic existing small businesses, state and territory institutes and in particular as I mentioned, the AIS.
In this way, the best ideas and innovations are not limited or constrained. But they are continually drawn upon from Australia-wide sources with the creative effort in an open, thoughtful and future orientated way.
As the Australian Sports Commission lifts its eyes to this broader innovation landscape for sport, they will be better placed to target investment for high performance and this will help achieve success on the international stage.
But this does not mean sports who do not achieve the same level of international success as others will miss out.
National sporting organisations will continue to present their plans to the Australian Sports Commission for their annual review. And some sports will ascend and be deserving of attention.
However, we will be asking sports to collaborate even more with the Commission and the AIS and SIS/SAS network, to ensure every dollar invested works harder and is more effective and targeted towards helping potential World Champions. Including of course, the summer and the winter Olympics and the Paralympics. We want to see all of the athletes achieve their dream.
I have every confidence that our national sports leaders will continue to show vision and foresight. I encourage lateral thinking and bold moves.
History shows how far Australian tennis was ahead of the game back in the 1988 when it moved the Australian Open from the grass courts of Kooyong to the hard courts of Melbourne Park. It became the first Grand Slam tournament to use a closed roof to overcome inclement weather. This was bold, but responsive to anticipated challenges.
It is that sort of foresight and the ability to continually evolve which has maintained Australia’s proud international sporting record.
These big decisions could not be possible without strong governance and administration, something that Tennis Australia has worked extremely hard on, and under Steve Wood, continues to do so.
Excellence in administration and governance can only be achieved by having the right people in the right places with the right skills to perform the work.
One of the first things I did as Minister for Sport was to release the updated Sports Governance Best Practice Principles. As I said earlier, one of my duties is to ensure plans are being developed that will allow us to maintain our excellence in high performance sport and our rightful place as a world leader. The issue of governance is central to this responsibility.
To succeed on the world stage, to optimise our reach and use sport to achieve broader economic and social policy objectives, including the leadership in our geographic region, we must first provide the leadership through excellence in governance and strategic planning.
As everyone in this room knows, Tennis Australia, along with several other sports has started this journey. It must continue the pace.
If we don’t, we do run the risk of an insular perspective at a time when there are great opportunities to improve our links within our region and with the rest of the world.
Tennis Australia’s plan to tour the Australian Open trophy through Asia is timely and exciting. The Government is currently working on the Asian White Paper which looks at our place in the region. We believe it is the Asian century and we believe sport will play a significant role in strengthening our relationships and providing opportunities for economic and social ties that will bring us closer and lead to opportunities across our region.
There are great opportunities now to market the Australian Open not only as the event of our nation, but also as the event of our region.
The impact of Li Na’s success on the profile of tennis in our region and obviously in China simply cannot be overstated.
The future is extremely bright, and it’s up to all of us to harness this potential.
It is a wonderful time to be Sports Minister. In London this year I’m sure our elite athletes, including our Olympic tennis players, will continue to shine – I want to take this opportunity to wish them all the very best of luck.
And for all the fantastic results we have achieved at every level in tennis in Australia, I would like to thank all of you for the role that you’ve played. No doubt a lifetime to date of commitment, of passion, that contributes to an extraordinary community that changes people’s lives for the better.
I would like to wish you all the best as you continue your journey towards the 2013 Australian Open. It is a tremendous international event and a credit to you all.
Once again, all the best for your 2012 Australian Tennis Conference. You’ve been very patient listening to me, but I had some things I wanted to say and I appreciate very much you all listening. Have a great couple of days and thank you so much for the invitation to speak to you tonight.