• Getting Management on Board

    15m 25s

    Karen has spent 19+ years at Basketball Victoria as General Manager Inclusion and Strategy championing the inclusion investment across a wide variety of platforms and earned respect for her vision, forethought and ability to influence and assist others to step into this space. She is now currently the Executive Manager Women and Girls at Football Victoria.

Graphical summary and transcript




Hello and thank you. I will say this topic has been very close to my heart. Yes, for nearly 20 ideas, and it's not been an easy journey along the way. It's been amazing and fantastic and I've loved it. But it's come with a lot of challenges, which you all would know working the inclusion in and diversity space. We know that immigration has changed the face of many global corporate organizations economically around the world. They say that for every 1 percent of diversity that you have within your organization, you can increase your financial reward by up to 3 percent. The greater the diversity is within the organization that increase, that finance can go up as far as 15 percent. So we know from it from a corporate point of view that it's a good corporate business perspective to actually be diverse. BHP, for example, have one in four females working in the mines. The new state, Netball and Hockey Centre build that will be happening shortly in Victoria, has a commitment of 50 per cent female trades working on that, which is incredible in itself.

I assure you, as you know, I've spent that 20 years working in a very diverse and inclusive organisation, pushing the agenda at basketball and now at Football Victoria as the Executive Manager of Women and Girls. It's a very diverse, culturally diverse organisation, but one that is very male dominant. So I know I've moved from one area to another that's going to challenge me once again. But with that, I'm sure we'll get rewards.

I actually like this cartoon for a number of reasons, it actually talks about diversity to lots of folks means allowing a few of the less fortunate to dip a toe in the mainstream. I would say that what it has done predominantly for sport as it has been the reason that sport has dipped a toe in the world of disability, they haven't really immersed themselves as much as they probably should have. So I want to take you back to when I first started as a paid employer of working and being in sport. Prior to that, I was the volunteer, as most of us probably started out. And we're going to rewind to 2002 where I first dipped my toe in the world of disability. The Australian Sports Commission at that time came up with a program that was called Project CONNECT. Probably some of you in the room remember that. And they identified five or six sports to actually work in the area of disability. And basketball was chosen as one of those sports. So they filtered money down through the national sports organisations that came down to the states. And we had to create a program for people with disability. As most sports back then, the world I know basketball that time had eight employees full time.

That's all we had. So we rolled out participation development programs for coaches, referees, players. We had a high performance area. We did a little bit of governance, not as much as we're responsible for today. And that was basketball and sport. And most of the work that we did in participation area was actually working in mainstream schools. So working in disability, I said, okay, let's go and target the special school system. So went out there, created and did a lot of programs in there and actually created a program that still exists today that is called the VicHealth Cup, which has 75 per cent of special schools still competing in that and growing across the state of Victoria with three levels of competition for that provides an opportunity for people of all abilities to play. So there was a legacy in there, but there were also a lot of learnings and a lot of as the newbie to the world of disability, I made a whole lot of mistakes.

I remember going out to schools and asking if they had kids in wheelchairs because I knew we need to grow the wheelchair basketball space. I knew at that time that if you were a child that was in a wheelchair, that you actually had to get on a court and compete with adults. And most of those adults were elite basketballers, there was not a grassroots program for kids with disability. I now know that you don't have to be in a wheelchair permanently to play any wheelchair sport. You can be the paraplegic. You can be a person who has recently acquired limb loss. You can be an ex-elite athlete who can't run, jump or pivot any more like you used to. But you can actually get in a chair and you may even be qualified enough to represent Australia and Paralympics. But you can also be like you or I that has no acquired mobility restriction because we need you to make up the numbers. So these people have an opportunity to play.

So I made those mistakes. But along the way we actually went from working in disability to growing programs across the vast array of diversity and inclusion. We now fast forward to about 2007 and the state government in Victoria said that sport organisations, if they needed to continue getting funding, needed to create a strategic plan. Now, all along this time, in this part of the journey, my soapbox was out a lot of the time and I was out telling everybody how inclusion needed to be embedded in the business of the sport. So when we were creating our first strategic plan and I was saying we needed to highlight inclusion as a key pillar in that strategic plan, I got the pushback saying, but you said we need to have this embedded into the business. We were so far beyond being a fully inclusive organisation that we needed to put it as a key pillar, which we ended up doing.

We now got a little bit further and we had some significant funding along this time from Sport and Rec Victoria, but also from VicHealth. And we created a mantra that said by 2014, the inclusion department would not exist. It was pretty much of an out there statement. It was quite daunting for my team to know that because they were also funded as part of funding that we came in. They weren't they were contracted, not salaried. Luckily, I was able to roll along a whole lot of funding over those years. Probably luck isn't the right word. We all know writing a funding submission is a, you know, a lot of work. But I did manage to for most of the time. I was at Basketball Victoria to bring in about 4.2 million dollars in funding in that area. So we created a whole lot of programs. We said that because we knew that the business of basketball needed to be embedded across every single department in the organization. It was at this time that we were given the exemplar status by VicHealth for the work that we had were doing in disability. And we were leading a number of sports in that journey along the way. Over about a four year period, I think it was I presented to over 50 different organizations, even going to some other sporting boards as much as I wanted at that time, everybody to play basketball. I knew that we are a very diverse nation and there was an opportunity for people to play whatever they liked.

So if it meant that I could tell a journey to another sport and help them come in I did that. The inclusive leader. I think we've heard along many, many years that people have talked about a champion of change. That's okay. But you actually need a whole lot of people who are champions. One person can't make a difference. One person can simply be the development officer who has been employed for a three year period because funding has come in and may be the most amazing champion for that cause, but leaves. So the programs are never sustainable. The funding goes away and the program doesn't exist anymore. But you know, among among all of those champions, you need to model your inclusive behavior at all times.

You need to be ethical. You need need to be on top of the trends. You need to continually educate yourself and those around you on what you need to put out there for inclusion and diversity. You need to be courageous and resilient. Why? Because you have to pull those soapboxes out. Because if you believe in what you're doing, you need to be out to tell those stories and have the courage to continually stand up to your upper management, your CEO, your board, to push the agenda that you believe should be out there giving everybody an opportunity to play sport.

I remember in this journey that school sport for a very long time didn't include special schools in school sport. And I remember many times going to School Sport Victoria and School Sport Australia and actually saying to them, why don't you include special schools in your school sport program? And their answer at that time was because they don't pay a fee. And I said, have you ever asked them to pay a fee to belong to you as the education sporting system in the state, which they didn't? So we actually bought a specialist school into a school sport, mainstream environment. We actually targeted an amazing school that had a few national basketballers in it. And we put them into a district basketball competition. The girls team came third and the boys came fifth on the day and they were invited to attend every single district school sport event from that day onwards. So we knew it could happen.

Embedding it into the business. What is a difference between good corporate responsibility and good financial business acumen? Sometimes they go hand-in-hand. Sometimes, as we've heard a little bit today about telling stories and how important the storytelling is. Those stories and everybody has one. I even have one. I'm finding out we for the last probably 10 years of my life that we have an Aboriginal background that we didn't know existed. So it's an interesting story and everybody has one and doesn't often share that. But if you tell those stories, that might bring you some financial investment into your organization from a corporate point of view simply by telling a story. But you need that good business acumen. What is some of the things that you can do? Is it a good financial gain? We know that does that. Statistically, it's out there.

How do you embedded across your business? Some of the things that we did along the way was making sure we had one of the other champions that we had internally was our chair. He was a retired gentleman is still chair today. And we brought him on board as one of our champions. So we knew that when he was out in the world, he could talk the talk about our programs to other sponsors, to the minister, to the rest of the board, whatever. We created some amazing programs along the way. Wheelchair basketball is now grown to a statewide program and it's embedded.

Everything that we did was attached to a local association or club. We never did it as a stand alone program that was run out of the State Sporting Association. That was very important because if you did it only internally, it will also never be sustainable. So before we ever bought a program on board, we would actually do inclusion and culturally competency training with that local association. And we even made sure that they would undertake the Play by the Rules discrimination, harassment, online tools, and they would then send through those certificates that you receive from there into our organization. Now, as part of that, we also use that funding to give grants out to the associations to start programs. That was all attached to reporting processes, all of that. And that was the beginnings of knowing that that association was on board and they could continue those programs forever and a day.

Sorry. Performance appraisals, position descriptions. We made sure it was putting all of that. We changed policy procedure. We continually internally did. We said they were compulsory workshops that we did on any of the programs that we were doing to up skill internally. All of the people, they weren't really compulsory. We told them that it was a condition of our funding that we had to do these. And so therefore, I got 100 percent buy in, including our CEO, who would attend those on about a bi monthly basis. That was hoping then that the rest of our organization could go out and talk the talk of inclusion and ensure that it was embedded.

Even along all this way. We didn't quite get there. I can still say when I left in June, even though along that journey we were named the best being the exemplar sport out there. We were so far beyond it. We were still getting programs that were handballed back to us. If it was a coaching a number of special school teachers that wanted to do a coaching course, it would be given back to the inclusion department. So it's still not there. I would embrace anybody that says they are a truly inclusive and diverse organization or would applaud you for doing that. But it is a hard journey and it needs to be one that you continually push time and time again.

Legacy. I absolutely love this. This quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, where he says, "How can one have a soccer team if all the members are goalkeepers?" We know that's impossible. That's not even fun sending out there, having to shoot at a goal. But time and time and time again, because nothing else for you. You need to create that legacy. You need to make sure that it is a continuation. I've now got it. As I said, a huge journey ahead of me to change the perception in the world of football. It's going to be challenging, but I find it again. It's another exciting thing to actually go for that. Make sure that your policies and your procedures and everything that you do internally is documented so you can look back and see where you've made those change.

We all know that's why we're here today, that inclusion and diversity is great for our business in sport. And we need to talk about sport purely simply being sport. When we start to talk about other programs that we have a program over here or program over there that is inclusive or diverse, we need to talk about it simply as being basketball, football, hockey, gymnastics, tennis, whatever. And then I think we can say we're truly inclusive and diverse. Thank you.