Inclusion and Diversity

In Victoria there are 100 state sporting associations and approximately 16,000 clubs and associations delivering sport and recreation opportunities in a range of communities across the state.

You may have heard the phrases inclusion and diversity used to define approaches to increasing participation in sport for all.

Often, the terms inclusion and diversity are used interchangeably, however they have different meanings that should be understood in the sporting context.

Victoria’s community is not homogenous. The term diversity refers to the different characteristics of people who make up our community. This includes the following characteristics:

  • Gender (including male, female and unspecified)
  • Age
  • Race (including nationality, ethnicity and colour)
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Sexual Orientation (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Queer)
  • Disability (including intellectual, physical or sensory disabilities)

Within families, friendship groups and local communities we may find diversity amongst people. In fact, the way each individual relates to these characteristics may differ. An individual is not defined by just one of these characteristics.

Diversity is a strength of our community. It is also the reason sport organisations should be inclusive in order to engage a wide range of people to participate in sport.

The term inclusion refers to what we do to ensure our diverse community is reflected in sport participants. Being inclusive means being proactive in the way we plan, lead and control the delivery of sport and recreation opportunities for everyone.

Inclusion in sport means everyone in our diverse community, regardless of their gender, age, race, culture, religion, sexual orientation or ability, is afforded a range of opportunities to participate.

A person is not defined by a single characteristic such as their age, religious affiliation or sexual orientation. Yet some communities are under-represented in sport participation. The Victorian Government’s Active Victoria framework includes a strategic direction for more inclusive participation for all. To achieve this, sport organisations should provide choice and opportunities to support greater participation by:

  • People with disability
  • Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) communities
  • Aboriginal Victorians
  • People from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
  • Women & Girls
  • Older adults

In addition, people who are experiencing social or economic disadvantage are less likely to participate in organised sport or be physically active.

In understanding the need for inclusion in sport it is important to remember that individuals may identify with some, or all, of these characteristics.

These characteristics may mean that sometimes people face certain barriers to participation, such as language, accessibility, attitudes or even discrimination. If someone experiences multiple barriers it may be harder for them to participate in sport. Inclusion is about taking proactive steps to remove these barriers; and barriers are the result of the way sport products and services are often designed and delivered – not the characteristics of the individual. Every person has the ability – and the right – to participate in sport.

A successful approach to inclusion will give the community a voice and empower them to contribute to solutions, program design or other important decisions affecting them. Doing this helps to create welcoming and inclusive environments and can lead to greater involvement by diverse communities as participants, volunteers, administrators and officials.

Everyone wins when sporting organisations are inclusive of our diverse community. The benefits are felt by both organisations (including state and national sporting associations, clubs, leagues and associations) and individuals alike.

The benefits to sporting organisations

Sporting organisations benefit greatly from being inclusive.

Let’s use local sporting clubs as the example. Most sporting clubs in Victoria are active within a local community, with its own diverse population. The characteristics of that population may be different from other local communities. For example, there may be a higher percentage of newly arrived migrants or refugees, or a greater amount of people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

By taking an inclusive approach, the sporting club’s leaders should communicate and connect with the local community to understand their interests and abilities. This allows the club to take steps to remove any barriers to participation and create opportunities for people to participate. Doing this in partnership with the local community means people have a say in creating sporting opportunities that work for them. It also benefits the club by:

  • Embracing a diverse range of skills, values and characteristics that add vibrancy to the club.
  • Providing an avenue for new people to volunteer in the club.
  • Increasing the number of club members and/or participants.
  • Making the club more sustainable because more people from the local community are active in accessing competitions, programs and events and making use of the club facilities.

A research project titled Participation vs Performance: Managing (dis)ability, gender and cultural diversity in junior sport found that sporting clubs recognise the benefits of diversity as greater health benefits to the community, club capacity, sustainability, increased membership and more volunteers.

The research project was conducted collaboratively by Victoria University, Swinburne University of Technology, Curtin University and Monash University, in partnership with VicHealth, Australian Football League (AFL) and the Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY).

The benefits to sporting individuals and communities

Barriers to sporting participation are not created by individuals, they can exist when products, services and facilities are not designed to be accessible to everyone. When sporting organisations take steps to be inclusive there are many benefits to both individuals and communities. For example:

  • Research from VicHealth into physical activity and sedentary behavior found that participation in sport or recreation can reduce levels of obesity and improve physical fitness.
  • The same research suggested that participation in sport or recreation can create new friendships, teamwork skills, increased mental health and reduced depressive symptoms.
  • The Game Plan resource published by the Centre for Multicultural Youth highlights the benefits of sporting participation to newly arrived migrants and refugees, which include establishing new networks, making new friends and feeling connected to the community.
  • Evaluation of the VicHealth State Sporting Association Participation Program from 2011-2015 found that the program, which provided resources and training to State Sporting Associations to create welcoming and inclusive environments within their sport, was successful in increasing participation rates in sport and recreation, resulting in positive health outcomes for individuals and a reduction in the number of preventable diseases such as coronary heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

The principles of inclusion should be applied in every sporting environment. The Welcoming Sport hub on Vicsport’s website contains more detailed information about how sporting organisations can be inclusive of particular population groups. Follow the links below to find practical tips, resources, ideas and case studies to support an inclusive approach. The content of these pages is based on evidence from the VicHealth State Sporting Association Participation Program.

  • Leadership

Aboriginal People
Women and Girls
People with Disability
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities

  • Policies and Practice

Aboriginal People
Women and Girls
People with Disability
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities

  • Facilities and Access

Aboriginal People
Women and Girls
People with Disability
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities

  • Participation

Aboriginal People
Women and Girls
People with Disability
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities

  • Keeping it Going

Aboriginal People
Women and Girls
People with Disability
Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities.

Case Studies

The following case studies demonstrate some of the excellent approaches to inclusion by various sport organisations in Victoria.

Warrnambool Table Tennis Club

Creating a Welcoming Environment for Everyone

Equality Is The Game! Our Codes, Our Clubs

Changing the story to promote gender equality

Gymnastics Program for Blind and Vision Impaired Children

Victorian Indigenous Surfing Program

7 Pillars of Inclusion

A useful framework for understanding how to be an inclusive sport organisation is the ‘7 Pillars of Inclusion’ framework developed by Play by the Rules. The seven pillars are:

  • Access
  • Attitude
  • Choice
  • Partnerships
  • Communication
  • Policy
  • Opportunity

You can read more about the 7 Pillars of Inclusion here.

Universal Design

A great guide for the design of both facilities and programs is Universal Design. Universal Design is a design philosophy that ensures that products, buildings, environments and experiences are innately accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their age, level of ability, cultural background, or any other differentiating factors that contribute to the diversity of our communities. Universal Design principles provide a useful framework; however, facilities and programs should also be tailored via direct consultation with people from diverse communities to ensure that key decisions are made in partnership with your participants.

Click here to view a Universal Design infographic developed by Vicsport and the State Government of Victoria.

Sport and Recreation Victoria also has some useful resources, including their Design For Everyone Guide.


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