The body that runs sport in Australia is pulling out of WA in a move that could undermine the State’s chances of fostering the next Sam Kerr or Nat Fyfe.
In a blow to local clubs and grassroots players, The West Australian can reveal that Sport Australia is closing its Perth office and moving the staff to the east coast. WA Sport and Recreation Minister Mick Murray blasted the decision, arguing that Sport Australia “may as well change its name to Sport Eastern States”.
“This is just another example of Western Australia being given the short shrift by a Federal Government that thinks Australia’s borders end at the Nullarbor,” Mr Murray said.
“WA taxpayers provide the same funding support as someone living in Sydney or Melbourne, so it is fair for us to expect some local benefit and support for our local sports, clubs and grassroots players.”
Sport Australia — the nation’s peak sports administration and advisory body — drives sport at a local level, supporting up-and-coming athletes and working to lift participation rates from a young age.
Among the programs that could suffer from the decreased on-the-ground support is the country’s biggest school-based program that helps children to develop a lifelong love for sport.
Mr Murray has written to Federal Sport Minister Bridget McKenzie, asking her to step in and ensure Sport Australia maintains a presence in Perth.
Questioning how services would be provided to WA if the closest office was 3500km away, he said it made no sense for Sport Australia to rip resources out of the west when its staff were already working out of the Department of Sport and Recreation’s Leederville offices rent free.
“It is not clear to me how the decision to close the Perth office is in anyone’s interest,” Mr Murray said.
“I strongly request that the decision to close the Perth office is reconsidered.”
Sport Australia chief executive Kate Palmer confirmed that Sport Australia would recall its two Perth staff at the end of July, as well as shut its offices in Adelaide and Brisbane.
But she insisted that the organisation would continue to work closely with every State and Territory.
“We understand Mr Murray’s concern, but Sport Australia has a national strategy to enhance sport and physical activity opportunities for all Australians,” Ms Palmer said.
“As a government organisation, we have a responsibility to be efficient, and we believe consolidating our offices will enable us to deliver more effectively for all Australian sport.”
She did not respond to The West’s request for comment.