“Football Is A Powerful Vehicle For Social Good And Transformation”

In the fourth of our special features for our charity partners John Moriarty Football’s (JMF) Indigenous Football Week, Kieran Yap spoke to Ros Moriarty, JMF co-founder, co-chair, and co-MD. Ros is also the Women’s Football Council Chair of Football Australia.

Above: Ros Moriarty. Photo: Storyboard Media, supplied by John Moriarty Football.

The impact that football can make goes beyond packed stadiums and trophies. At all levels, it has the potential to change lives.

The theme for this year’s Indigenous Football Week is  “Gender Equality In Football- Changing The Game.” With the rising profile of women’s football and an approaching World Cup on Australian soil, the timing could not be better to look at what has been achieved and what more can be done.

“In Australia, some of the most positive recent steps is certainly pay parity for our national teams,” says Ros Moriarty of the Moriarty Foundation.

“The renaming of the W-League to A-League Women is also a significant step in acknowledging women’s football.

“But there is still a long way to go. For instance, female football players only account for 20% of participants, only 7% of registered football coaches are women and there is low female representation in the leadership levels of football.”

Ros Moriarty is the Co-founder, Co-chair and Honorary Managing director of Moriarty Foundation. She is also the Independent Chair of The Women’s Football Council and a passionate advocate for equality in football.

“There are a lot of motherhood statements made around gender equality and women’s football, but not always a lot of action,” she says about some of the existing barriers.   

“It’s not a box to be ticked or a report to be issued. There’s work to be done at the foundational level of the game, in the structures that support the game, from grassroots right through to the elite level.”

Reaching gender equality in Australian football is about opportunities and JMF has a game plan to address these issues and the will to put it into play.

Above: Achieving a 50/50 gender split in children participating in JMF’s programs is a big part of the Foundation’s work. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Moriarty Foundation.

“The lack of women coaches is certainly a significant area that needs to be addressed,” says Moriarty

“Our program has 43% female coaches. There are fundamental changes that need to occur in how football attracts, employs, and engages with female coaches.

“More mentoring, more flexibility to support mothers and carers, equal pay, these are just some of the changes we need to see.”

John Moriarty Football is being proactive in approaching these challenges. The entire team has worked to further improve their already impressive track record.

They are implementing a three-level approach to increase the percentage of women in football. This was done with the help of former Matilda Tal Karp, who was commissioned by the foundation to help create more diversity tools and further their commitments.

  1. A holistic training and development program to fast track more women into leadership. 
  2. Flexible, safe and supportive work environments to drive equal opportunity for mothers.
  3. Awareness and culturally safe channels for proactive gender equality communications and respect.

“Our coaches are community change makers”

The flexibility is essential, not just for gender equality but for providing opportunities for the Indigenous community. There is no one all-encompassing solution. Different cultures and circumstances mean that equality can only be properly achieved by taking this into account.

“Indigenous women often face additional barriers due to cultural responsibilities, socio-economic disadvantage, particularly if they are from a remote region, and racial discrimination,” says Moriarty.

“We know from our Indigenous female football coaches that caring responsibilities and women’s ceremonial practices can impact their work-life and they require flexible arrangements.”

JMF commitment to the Indigenous football community in Australia has been long-running and successful.

Above: Participants in JMF’s coaching work. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Moriarty Foundation.

“We’ve largely done this unsupported by the football hierarchy,” reminds Moriarty.

“What we’d like to see is more investment in community programs that reach remote and regional areas, not just for talent identification, but also to grow the immense social benefits of the game.”

Those social benefits are tangible and measurable. Over 10 years the foundation has shown how football can result in improvements in school attendance and performance. Additionally, student resilience, health wellbeing, and community spirit have grown and role models are discovered and cultivated.

“Football is a powerful vehicle for social good and transformation, at both personal and community levels,” says Moriarty.

“What JMF does so well is it is delivered in a holistic and culturally-enriched way and driven by coaches, employed from the local community and trained by us.

“Our coaches are community change-makers and role models for children and young people. They are actively involved in the community.

“For instance, in Borroloola, NT, our coaches were instrumental in working with the community and local businesses to build and install permanent football goals on the local oval, the first ones in the town ever.

“It has been 10 years of us erecting temporary goals every day and taking them down again. Now it’s just the nets. It’s a big thing.”

Visibility Matters

You cannot be what you cannot see and the elevation of players like Jada Whyman, Allira Toby, and Shadeene Evans to national prominence has a massive effect.

Whyman recently earned a call-up to the senior Matildas squad, Toby is a fixture at the top level of domestic football and Evans’ arrival at Adelaide is a huge coup for the club.

Above: JMF’s coaching sessions are about fun, promoting healthy lifestyles and providing support to Indigenous children’s education as well as football coaching. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Moriarty Foundation.

Whyman and Toby both mentor JMF participants and to for them to achieve the heights that they have is no small feat.

“The impact is immense,” says Moriarty.

“We have 2000 Indigenous boys and girls who participate in JMF sessions in the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland who look up to players like Jada Whyman, Shadeene Evans, and Allira Toby who are breaking through barriers and demonstrating that there are pathways open to get to the top level of the game and follow their dreams.”

Those dreams are becoming more achievable every year but it is not simply a matter of time. It takes effort and vigilance and JMF’s commitment to having a 50/50 balance of boys and girls participating means they have achieved what federations around the world still aspire to.

“We achieved that benchmark early on, and we have never wavered from it,” says Moriarty. 

“We decided right from the start that JMF would cater to boys and girls equally so we built our delivery model to suit that.

“We make sure we have female coaches to be role models and mentors for our female participants, we ensure equal treatment of our participants and provide equal opportunity for advancement in the game.

“For instance, we have an equal number of boys and girls in our Scholarship program.”

All eyes will be on Australia for the 2023 World Cup and JMF has shown the way towards gender equality in football.

Should The Matildas achieve the ultimate on home soil it will be a huge win for Australian football.

Should the goal of gender equality be achieved it will be a monumental victory for Australian society.

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