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Leading recreation planner calls for Sport Australia to engage with local government to understand participation trends

Leading recreation planner calls for Sport Australia to engage with local government to understand participation trends
January 13, 2022

With Sport Australia’s recently released Emerging Trends in Sport Participation report having acknowledged that organised sport is not a popular choice for many, a leading recreation planner is calling for an engagement with local government to understand participation trends.

Writing on LinkedIn, Neal Ames, an experienced local government recreation and open space planner and member of Parks and Leisure Australia’s National Advisory board makes reference to the report’s statement that "social and recreational habits in Australia are changing and organised sport is not necessarily the most popular choice for many. Recreational trends, plus the rise of digital options, present challenges for organised sport but also exciting opportunities."

With the report stating that “further exploration into these trends is recommended to better understand how they might affect the diverse range of sports, and sport participants”, Ames commented “it is a pleasure to see that Sport Australia are finally recognising what a lot of us at the grass-roots level have been seeing for the last 10 years.”

Reaching out, Ames continues “can I suggest that the best way for SA (Sport Australia) to understand what is happening on the ground, besides their Ausplay dataset, is set up a panel of LG (local government) officers who are responsible for the production of management plans. Management plans are a strategic deep-dive into what the community are doing, on specific open spaces. It is the development of management plans that has extensively enhanced my understanding of the industry.

Suggesting that Gary Rauber, Sport Australia’s Assistant Director - Insights, manage such a steering committee, Ames adds “a number of state government departments are starting to do this” noting that he is on the open space design review panel for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.

He concludes “it’s a win-win, you get access to the best minds in the country, and you don't have to pay them.

“There is a challenge for you Sport Australia, get the real-life data from those that are using it.”

Providing an overview of challenges and opportunities to guide future sport participation, the Emerging Trends in Sport Participation report identifies that many sport participants are prioritising social engagement and fun, rather than strong competitive elements when considering physical activity and asks if sports can adapt to meet this demand.

The Emerging Trends in Sport Participation report can be viewed at

Image courtesy of the NRL.

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