A year ago, Target Rifle Victoria changed their board composition via their constitution to mandate a minimum of two female board members.
However, that only gave the organisation two out of seven positions for female council members leaving them below the 40% minimum quota requirement. So at this year’s AGM in May the organisation put a motion to the members to change to have the full 40% written into the constitution as per Sport and Recreation Victoria’s mandatory board requirements.
“We actually elected three female board members at that meeting,” says former TRV president Mike Jarrad, who serves as a voluntary projects and grants officer for the sport after spending four years as President.
Target Rifle Victoria (TRV) is the coordinating body for the disciplines of air rifle and small-bore rifle shooting throughout Victoria with 38 clubs and just over 700 members.
Providing infrastructure and oversight to ensure that rifle range activities are conducted in a safe and enjoyable environment, TRV are also committed to developing athletes that can compete successfully at the highest levels, while providing access to competitions that will enable all members to compete at whatever level they choose.
In a sport where 80% of its membership is male, drawing female volunteers and committee members has its challenges. TRV found some resistance to the requirement of the quota from male members, but interestingly, there was more push back from women.
“Our sport is one of the very few sports in the world where males and females, seniors or juniors, can compete equally against each other at the same time using the same equipment under the same rules for the same prize,” Jarrad says.”
“There’s no advantage being male or female.”
However, with no full-time or part-time paid staff, TRV is completely volunteer run and as a result finds it difficult to attract volunteers from outside the sport.
“Because we only have 20% female membership it put a lot of pressure on them to move onto the board. Some felt it resulted in an unfair expectation to step up to the board,” Jarrad explained.
With a small pool to draw from inside the sport, TRV has been actively working to increase the percentage of women and girls in the sport at all levels.
“At my club we ran a come-and-try event to attract more female members, and we had an influx of new female members. It’s changed the club. They’ve changed the whole mindset of the club, for the better”
The three new TRV female council members all come with some association to the sport.
Vice President Julie Holcombe has been a participant and state representative for over 40 years. Treasurer Julie Romanoff has three daughters and a husband who shoot. And Janey Preston, who has taken the TRV secretary position, came into the sport via an SRV funded initiative to attract more female participants.
Jarrad believes open communication with members is important. “Initially I’d say 30% of our voting membership was against committing to three positions for female council members, but in the end, after a good discussion at the AGM almost all clubs agreed.”
Challenges still remain. With the TRV constitution limiting all terms to four years, recruiting replacements could be an issue.
“It’s something we will face in a few years’ time. It’s a challenge but we will have to deal with it,” Jarrad says.
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As at 1 July 2019 all sport and active recreation organisations funded by Sport and Recreation Victoria and the Victorian Government are expected to comply with the mandatory 40% women on boards quota.
The quota was one of nine recommendations stemming from the 2015 Inquiry into Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation – A Five Year Game Plan for Victoria. One of the nine recommendations was to ‘Mandate gender balance and good governance principles’. The Inquiry found a minimum quota of 40% should be set for female representation on governing bodies, and that a phase-in period of up to three years was reasonable for change.
The Victorian Government is committed to promoting gender equality at all levels of sport and active recreation in Victoria.
The introduction of the quota for funded governing bodies is a world first in the sport and active recreation industry and as we approach our deadline, the positive change this process has brought about has sparked interest and acclaim across the country and internationally.