The Federal government’s response to the Independent Sport Panel (Crawford Report, 2009) was embedded in the budget papers contained in the Department of Health and Ageing portfolio. Australian Sport: The Pathway to Success detailed the Government’s policy response to the most contentious of the issues raised in the Crawford Report, namely, funding priorities in respect of elite sport and community participatory sport. The importance of funding for Olympic sports was effectively questioned by Crawford arguing the money might be better spent on health outcomes through increasing participation in sport and physical activity.
The government’s response – based on a whole-of-sport policy focus, could arguably be a whole-of-government policy approach. If so, there is potential for sport to be an agent for social innovation by effectively harnessing the multi-points through which sports policy should be delivered. The Commonwealth Government expects the Australian Sports Commission, as the agent coordinating sports policy, to work closely with the Department of Health and Ageing, the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Department of immigration and Citizenship, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, states and territories, local governments and a range of non-government partners to deliver sport. If this is the case, this highlights the extent to which sport transcends and impacts a diverse range of communities.
The potential for change and innovation through sport is grounded in the communities through which sport is a social force. Although the government notes $1.2 billion of funding for sport over the next four years, of which $192.2 million dollars is claimed to be new money directed to the Australian Sport Commission, the 2010-11 budget shows no new money to boost participation in sport. Elite sport by contrast, has been successful in attracting an extra $30 million of funding, which will ease tensions in the Olympic ranks. The extra $30 million should allow elite sports to maintain world class standings and remain competitive on the international stage.
With no new money to support the participation and health focus, it is difficult to see how the whole-of-sport policy will be realised, unless there are financial injections planned for the ensuing years. The opportunity for the development of communities and individuals through sport may be lost, as will the opportunity for social innovation and a whole-of-government approach to sport in schools, active communities, social integration, women’s sport, community leadership and voluntarism, indigenous participation, coach education and work place trends and career development. The whole-of-sport-government approach also presents an opportunity to better understand the impact of sport in the community and how we measure these impacts from an economic, social, health and national identity perspective. These measures will focus policy maker’s attention on where and how funding for sports participation should be targeted, if and when additional resources are delivered.