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Kate Palmer departs Chief Executive role at Sport Australia

Kate Palmer departs Chief Executive role at Sport Australia
February 4, 2020

Overshadowed by the recent controversy surrounding allocations from the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant Program, Sport Australia Chief Executive, Kate Palmer has departed the role.

Palmer, who announced her resignation last October, prior to investigation by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) into the program, is understood to have made her decision to leave the Australian Government sport agency as a result of its advice being ignored in the allocation of grants by former Federal Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie in grant allocations prior to the last election.

However, publicly Palmer was uncritical of the Program, writing in the last Sport Australia annual report “the Community Sport Infrastructure grants program is delivering more than $100m to enhance more than 680 grassroots facilities across Australia. This is an investment in building stronger, healthier communities.”

Also, when asked during the ANAO investigation to comment whether she had earlier expressed concerns on the way Senator McKenzie’s office distributed the grants, Palmer responded “I’m not prepared to comment on that”.

A highly credentialed sport administrator, Palmer became the first woman to head Sport Australia when she became Chief Executive in January 2017 - her previous role having been Chief Executive of Sport Australia where, over 10 years, she had maintained the game’s status as the highest participation sport for women and overseen the introduction on its new national league – Suncorp Super Netball.

During her three years at Sport Australia she led the rebranding of the organisation, governance reform among national sports organisations and put in place important safeguards to protect children in sporting environments.

However, in 2019 she faced constrained budgets and the ignoring of Sport Australia advice on the Community Sport Infrastructure Grant (CSIG) Program.

The ANAO’s January report into the program also cited "an undeclared and unmanaged conflict of interest involving a senior Sport Australia employee with responsibilities for the CSIG program and the relationship with an organisation linked to applicants of the CSIG program - and ongoing relationship with that organisation.”

To date, that employee has not been identified.

In December, Palmer (pictured) issued an "unreserved" apology following an apparent hacking of an email account belonging to Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.

Leaving Sport Australia last Friday (31st January), Palmer is understood to be returning to Melbourne to care for a sick family member.

At the time of writing neither Federal Sports Minister Richard Colbeck or Sport Australia has issued a statement acknowledging Palmer’s role at Sport Australia.

Australasian Leisure Management understands that Robert Doulton has taken on the role of acting Chief Executive until a permanent postholder is appointed.

Dalton is a Senior Partner at EY in Melbourne and has been a member of Sport Australia’s Finance, Audit and Risk Committees since 2010.

About the author

Nigel Benton

Co-owner / Publisher, Australasian Leisure Management

Nigel Benton is the co-owner and publisher of Australasian Leisure Management, Australia and New Zealand’s only magazine for professionals in all areas of the leisure industry. Having established the magazine in 1997, shortly after his relocation to Australia, he has managed its readership rising to over 11,500 and its acceptance as the industry journal for professionals in aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues.

As of 2020, he has launched the new Asian Leisure Business website.

Among a range of published works and features, his comments on a Blog (blogspot) from 2007 to 2011, when this website went live in its current form, may be interesting to reflect back on.

Click here to connect with him via LinkedIn.

Read more from this author

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2nd February 2020 - Sports rorts scandal sees National deputy leader Bridget McKenzie resign from Government

29th January 2020 - Former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie warned that sports grant program was compromised

25th January 2020 - Former Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie approved more than $1 million in grants for shooting clubs

23rd January 2020 - ‘Sports rorts’ review to be assessed by Prime Minister’s department

23rd January 2020 - ‘Sports rorts’ scandal: Revelation that upmarket golf, rowing and tennis clubs received major grants

24th January 2020 - Executive who worked on Infrastructure Grant Program no longer at Sport Australia

16th January 2020 - Audit Office sports grants report cites ‘conflict of interest’ at Sport Australia

15th January 2020 - Audit Office report confirms that Federal Government targeted marginal seats with potentially illegal sports grants

9th January 2020 - EY survey reveals that media and entertainment companies know they must reinvent to survive the next five years

11th December 2019 - Kate Palmer apologises for ‘unauthorised access’ following Sport Australia email hack

23rd November 2019 - Former Government lawyer says Federal Minister’s Community Sport Infrastructure allocations were ‘illegal’

8th November 2019 - Sport Australia advice ignored by former Federal Sports Ministers in award of community sport infrastructure funds

28th October 2019 - Kate Palmer to step down from Sport Australia Chief Executive role

11th March 2019 - Sport Australia’s Kate Palmer announced as speaker for FILEX Women of Influence Forum

8th February 2019 - Sport Australia’s Kate Palmer says now is the time to stop talking about ‘women’s sport’

14th January 2019 - Sport Australia’s Kate Palmer says schools are critical to solving nation’s inactivity crisis

20th February 2017 - Kate Palmer to give first public address as Australian Sports Commission head at BOSS 2017


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