Equal Pay for Equal Play
A local longboarder and a journalist have teamed up to take a petition to NSW parliament calling for government-funded sports clubs to distribute equal prize money to men and women in sporting competitions.
Lucy Small and Kate Allman launched the petition, which requires 20,000 signatures to be debated in front of parliament, after Ms Small was awarded less than half the prize money of her male counterpart in a longboarding competition held on the Northern Beaches in April this year.
Ms Allman got in touch with Ms Small to write about the situation.
“I heard about Lucy the day it happened, and thought, ‘What the hell, it’s 2021, women at the highest levels have been paid equal numbers by the World Surf League since 2019, why is it not happening here?’”
While anti-discrimination laws in Australia prevent a man from being paid more than a woman for the same work, these laws don’t extend to elite sports competitions because a one-off competition doesn’t constitute employment.
Ms Small said that the response following the competition shows people are ready for change.
“That experience was not isolated, it’s not the only time that has happened for sure. But seeing the media response made me think that five years ago there wouldn’t have been this level of outrage, but now people are ready for change and ready to see that equality,” Ms Small told The Beast.
Ms Allman explained that the crux of the petition is that sports clubs who apply for government grants should be able to demonstrate that they distribute that money equitably between women’s and men’s teams, and also provide equal opportunities for both genders in the form of entry positions, time and training resources.
“It really puts the onus back on the clubs, ‘Are we doing enough to be supportive of all genders?’” Ms Allman said.
The petition extends beyond just surf clubs to all sporting clubs and has already gained the support of the UNSW Hockey Club and UNSW-Eastern Suburbs AFL Club.
Ms Small told The Beast that in longboarding, as in many sports, women offer a different set of skills to men and these differences should be celebrated.
“Especially in longboarding, it’s not about pound for pound muscle, it’s about style and timing and things that are not gendered, and I think that while men and women approach longboarding in really different ways, it’s still so sick and it’s exciting to watch,” Ms Small said.
Ms Allman believes that the equitable distribution of funding between men’s and women’s groups will allow the talent pool of women athletes to grow and women’s sport to improve.
“If you allow women to have a couple of generations of the same opportunities that the men have had, you see the amazing talent that flourishes and grows in those sports. I would say to the guys who say that “it’s not as good”, to give it a minute, because it’s a chicken and egg situation and if you’re not going to give people a chance, you’ll never see what they can do,” Ms Allman said.
Surfing Australia has since confirmed that their rule book mandates equal prize money between genders, and all competitions operating under their banner must follow this.
Ms Small told The Beast she believes this is an exciting opportunity for surfing to be a frontrunner in increasing gender equality across all sports.
“I’m looking at it like it’s an opportunity for surfing to lead the way in this space and for sports across the board to recognise the unique qualities and contributions that women bring,” Ms Small said.
To find out more about the petition, or to sign, head to equalpayforequalplay.com.au.