On a crisp Canberra morning, I found myself out the door at 7:15am and heading to the launch event-breakfast for womenCANplay, hosted at the YWCA. A not-for-profit organisation that was founded in Canberra, womenCANplay offers an interactive online hub for women who wish to get involved with sport and other activities in the ACT.
This NGO was founded by Hannah Massingham and Billi McCarthy-Price after they moved to Canberra and discovered a gap in the market for information on female sporting and recreational opportunities.
‘We wanted to help ensure that every women, regardless of age, race, religion, ability, or experience level is able to access all the information she needs to get involved and meet and connect with women in her community.’
As I arrived at the event, I was personally welcomed by Hannah and greeted to a warm environment hosting a surprisingly diverse range of attendees. Both men and women of different ages were present. Despite the early hour and lack of caffeine in my system, there was a definite sense of excitement in the air with people enjoying the social media table, as well as entering their names into a draw for sport and health-themed prizes. With an impressive breakfast selection, I helped myself to tea, fruit, and delicious pastries before scoring a front row seat for the official presentation.
Hearing both Hannah and Billi speak, it is undeniable that these inspiring women are passionate about connecting local women through sport and activities. It was refreshing to hear that although sport is a major factor in this initiative, they are also motivated to include other recreational activities in their Get Playing Hub to ensure that all active interests are catered for.
This sense of inclusivity is what continues to drive the organisation’s growth. Future plans for womenCANplay involve providing women with Get Playing Grants, publishing profiles of Local Legends, and facilitating Come & Try events. It is clear that this organisation is not just about merely replicating information that is already available, but rather providing a user-friendly platform for women to communicate, inspire, and grow together as a community.
Guest speakers also mirrored these themes, with talks from both Melissa Breen, the 100m Australian Record holder and member of the Australian Olympic Team for both London and Rio, as well as Dr. David Hughes, the Chief Medical Officer at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Medical Director for the Australian Olympic Team in Rio. A local Canberra girl, Melissa advocated that it doesn’t matter how fast you run or hard you play, but rather the enjoyment you get out of your sport or activity. Additionally, Dr. Hughes is passionate about ending gender inequality in the sporting world, stating “there is no excuse for women to have less opportunities than men in sport”. I personally found it refreshing to hear such powerful statements from a male in a senior management position at the AIS.
As someone who enjoys health and fitness, but is definitely no Sporty Spice, I was somewhat hesitant about covering an event dedicated to an initiative about women in sport. However, the level of inclusivity fostered by womenCANplay had me high on girl power and made me want to be a part of this incredible community. It became clear that this whole event and organisation is so much bigger than just women putting on their runners and participating in a sport. Rather, it is about connecting amazing women in our local community and inspiring them to be a part of something that radiates not only a sense of belonging, but total female empowerment. And what’s not to love about that?
I am beyond excited to see what else is to come from womenCANplay. I have a feeling that great things are coming from this organisation, so stay tuned.