Kieren Perkins out to make Australia the 'best sporting nation in the world' as new vision is unveiled – ABC News

Kieren Perkins out to make Australia the 'best sporting nation in the world' as new vision is unveiled
Kieren Perkins, Olympic swimming great and chief executive of the Australian Sports Commission (ASC), has put sports on notice to view the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic games not as a destination, but as a springboard for future generations to make Australia the best sporting nation in the world.
He also quashed plans for the Australian Institute of Sport to relocate to Brisbane.
Outlining the ASC's new strategic vision at the National Press Club on Wednesday, his message to those who run sport was simple.
"By 2032, if sport still looks the same as today, I haven't done my job properly," Perkins said.
Titled Our Green and Gold Decade of Opportunity, the ASC's vision is that "sport has a place for everyone and delivers results that make Australia proud".
Key to unlocking the change is the need for sport to evolve to reflect modern Australia, where almost half the population has at least one parent born overseas.
Diversity and inclusion are more than buzzwords, they are the bedrock for genuine change from grass roots to elite, from playing fields to the most senior offices and boardrooms.
"I truly believe we are entering one of the greatest periods of opportunity in Australia's sporting history," he said.
"Our most important job will be to put these words into action. Any game plan in sport is only as good as the way in which you deliver it.
"The reality is that for Australia to establish the world's best sporting system, none of us here will be able to win alone.
"But if we can all be part of this together, we will achieve remarkable things. Not just for sport, but for Australia."
Along with ASC chair Josephine Sukkar, the Perkins era has already taken a turn that is less ego-driven and more pragmatic in its relationships with the broader sporting fraternity, including the influential Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).
Headline grabbing stoushes between the former presidents of the two bodies, John Wylie and John Coates — who had fundamental disagreements mostly over sports funding — appear to be a thing of the past.
"It's about leaving self-interest at the door and uniting for a national cause," Perkins said.
It is a unity ticket powerbrokers hope will contribute to the vision of Australia becoming the world's best sporting nation with three strategic goals:
The delivery of the wish list won't be easy, and changing an entrenched culture is notoriously difficult.
A stream of culture reviews in sport – swimming, gymnastics, cricket, Aussie rules clubs amongst them — have exposed sports management as being top-heavy with white men.
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Historic abuse allegations continue to grow – racism in Aussie rules and child sex abuse in cricket are just two examples currently making the news, while there have been others and there are certainly more to come.
First Nations and other minorities are well represented in a minority of sports, mostly professional leagues, while they remain almost absent in others.
Even in sports where minority representation is high on the field of play, the same opportunities do not exist in coaching, high performance, or management positions.
"I get the irony of what I'm about to say, because it's coming from a middle-aged white man in a privileged position.
"Sport needs to be more open and inclusive.
"After coming back into the Australian sport sector after a career in banking, I've been disheartened but not surprised to see that sport looks identical to when I finished as an athlete in 2000.
"Last month, Cricket NSW chair John Knox said his sport is 'very white and very male'.
"We haven't progressed and it's imperative that our sport sector becomes truly representative of a modern, progressive, and diverse Australia."
When the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) was opened in 1981 it was a world class, elite facility. Other nations – such as Great Britain — copied Australia's system, invested more heavily, and set new benchmarks.
With Brisbane 2032 a decade away, a proposal to relocate the AIS to south-east Queensland has been knocked on the head.
It will remain in Canberra, but is in need of a makeover.
"Let me be emphatic – our plans for the AIS campus remain firmly in Canberra," Perkins said.
"Canberra is the seat of Federal Government and is the home of the AIS. It is one of our most treasured institutions, but after 41 years of service, the AIS campus must be updated.
"Building a new AIS in Queensland is unwarranted and would just divert investment away from our athletes.
The AIS has contributed significantly to developments in technology, sports science, medicine and wellbeing over the four decades of its existence. Those functions will continue.
But, according to Perkins, innovation is required in the way sports themselves are delivered to turn around massive drop out rates during teenage years.
"Our kids are still taking up sport early in life, but they are disconnecting when they need it most.
"Many sports do a fantastic job of developing fun and engaging entry level programs for young children.
"The participation cliff coincides with the point at which sport becomes serious. We need to disrupt what community sport looks like. Change our mindset about how sport is delivered and provide opportunities for all."
Cost, location, and rigid playing times are some of barriers preventing life-long engagement in sport. Perkins wants to work with sport to loosen those constraints.
"We are still a strong sporting system, doing things well, but we have spent the past two decades trying to climb back to where we were," Perkins said.
"We must have a sense of community, fun and the wider benefits of grassroots sport at the centre of everything we do."
Brisbane 2032 provides a focal point for the sports industry, but the horizon must go further beyond, Perkins said.
"We don't want to keep looking back and reminiscing about the golden ages of Australian sport. We have a golden opportunity now, let's grab it."
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
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