IN-DEPTH NEWS FEATURE:
Layne Beachley, Australian surfing icon and founder of Aim for the Stars Foundation, a women’s sponsorship group, is seeking to level the playing field when it comes to equality in Australian sport. With sheer focus and determination, Beachley’s foundation is empowering women to reach new heights in sport.
According to Mamamia.com, a women’s news site, women are getting a raw deal when it comes to Australian sport. While 64.6 percent of girls are involved in organised sport, only 12.8 percent are still participating by the age of 35. Many believe this is attributed to the lack of equality in sport. Particularly when only 9 percent of media coverage is about female athletes.
Inequality in Australian Sport
Beachley, a professional surfer, witnessed the disparity in the Australian sporting world first-hand.
“My male counterparts were earning two to three times more than I was and that was considered fair,” said Beachley. “There were times I could not compete due to financial pressure even though I was rated number two in the world on the ASP Women’s World Tour,” she said.
Beachley says she did not want other young talent to feel this same pressure. From its humble beginnings in 2004 where four girls received grants to help fund their athletic careers, the Aim for the Stars Foundation awarded 28 grants this year and has helped 146 Australian girls with their athletic and personal achievement goals since its inception.
Through the foundation, Beachley is not only providing financial support to young female athletes, but she is also giving them moral support. The foundation’s annual fundraiser pays to send the girls to Sydney. Here, they participate in a goal orientation workshop, a team building exercise, which this year was in the form of surf lessons with Beachley, and a glam session for the gala where the girls celebrate their achievements and raise awareness and funding.
“It fills me with a sense of pride, satisfaction, and joy to know that I am having a positive impact on another person’s life,” said Beachley. “It’s very rewarding to be able to provide a stepping stone for these individuals and encourage them to fulfil their sporting dreams,” she said. “We stay in contact with all recipients to track their progress and offer any further assistance and support.”
Aim for the Stars Recipients
Two individual success stories from this year illustrate the foundation’s achievements. Alanah Maclaurin is 15-years-old and a passionate fencer who is currently ranked 5th in Australia for Under 17 Epee. Due to an autoimmune disorder that stopped her from swimming or participating in any contact sports, Alanah found it hard to find a sport that suited these restrictions. Compounding this was a neurological disorder that caused some motor skills and learning difficulties. Yet, fencing has helped to improve coordination and visual perception. Now she dreams of representing Australia at the Olympics and is also learning to become a coach.
“The grant will allow me to travel to competitions to improve my ranking and hopefully represent Australia overseas,” said Maclaurin when interviewed by the Aim for the Stars Foundation. “In order to represent Australia, I need to improve my ranking by competing on the Australian Fencing Circuit,” she said. “However, as I live in Perth, this is very costly as only 1 of the 6 annual events is held in Perth each year, so I’ll use the grant money to assist with travel and accommodation costs for interstate National competitions.”
Then, there is Princess Daniels. Born in Ghana, her family was fortunate to come to Australia. As a citizen, she started competing in 100m and 200m events when she was nine and was recently selected to attend the Christian Schools Sports Association (CSSA) National Athletics this year. Princess has already finished second in the 100m final at the NSW PSSA state titles in 2010 and 2011. She is using the grant money for travelling to competitions, purchasing equipment and uniforms, and improving her performance.
“I will use the money to travel to national competitions, to buy uniforms, equipment and to generally improve my running,” said Daniels when interviewed by the Aim for the Stars Foundation. “Without your help I would not have been able to do all these things so thank you very much.”
Beachley Aims to Equalise Sport for Women
Beachley’s overall goal is to fund as many female sporting and personal ambitions as possible.
“My goal is to provide $100,000 worth of grants each year to as many girls as possible,” said Beachley. “I look at this goal the same way as my physical training for surfing,” she said. “Equalising sport for women is about continuing to catch those waves, riding them out, and pushing forward. Positive change is happening, and we will get there.”
For more information about the Aim for the Stars Foundation, to donate, or to apply for the 2014 grant program, please visit http://www.aimforthestars.com.au.