New guidelines have been released yesterday to ensure Australian golf clubs provide equal opportunities for both genders.
The Australian Human Rights Commission, in conjunction with Golf Australia, launched a publication titled ‘Guidelines for the promotion of equal opportunity for women and girls in golf’.
The launch was held at Mt Derrimut Golf and Community Club in Melbourne’s western suburbs, a club which offers seven-day-a-week open access to all genders.
Kate Jenkins, sex discrimination commissioner at the commission, said: “The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes this opportunity to partner with Golf Australia on the development of these guidelines.
“They provide information on the operation of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and practical guidance on how golf clubs can promote equal opportunity for women and girls.
“With its use of a unique handicap system, golf is particularly well placed to be an inclusive game for people of all genders, ages and abilities. A real opportunity exists to increase the participation rates for women and girls within golf.
“The guidelines provide an opportunity for golf clubs around Australia to revisit their policies and practices to ensure compliance with the Act, and to address these issues. The guidelines are particularly timely given the current momentum in relation to the participation of women in sport.”
Golf clubs can minimise the likelihood of a successful discrimination claim and promote equal opportunity by:
- ensuring membership categories are gender neutral
- providing open access to the course at all times for women/girls and men/boys
- maximising the participation of women and girls in competitions
- facilitating the inclusion of women and girls in governance arrangements.
Golf Australia chief executive Stephen Pitt said: “I would like to express GA’s sincere appreciation to the Australian Human Rights Commission for agreeing to produce this publication for the game of golf.
“To this point there has been a clear gap in the guidance we have been able to make available to clubs on two significant issues that relate to equal opportunity for women and girls.
“Firstly, the consistency of various golf operational practices with the federal sex discrimination law, which has been in force since 1984; and, secondly, what it is that clubs can do to implement policies to promote equal opportunity for women and girls in golf.
“We believe this document will go a long way towards filling this space.”
Pitt strongly encouraged all clubs to work through this publication and follow the guidance of the commission.
“We believe it to be particularly important in assisting clubs to meet their legal obligations and, where there is any doubt as to whether a certain practice complies with the law, we would urge clubs to focus on maximising the inclusion of women and girls and where appropriate, seek legal advice,” he said.
“This approach will help to minimise the risk of a discrimination claim, against a club or an official, under the Act.”
Empowering Australian golf clubs to ensure they are gender inclusive is a hallmark of Golf Australia’s ‘Vision 2025: The Future of Women & Girls in Golf’ strategy.
Pitt said that supporting clubs to follow the commission’s guide will help further develop the inclusive nature of golf.
“Everyone who loves our sport should be excited about this latest step we are taking with the commission to deliver a friendly experience for all golfers, regardless of their sex,” he said.
Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, the governing body for golf in all areas of the world except the United States and Mexico, said: “We commend Golf Australia for taking the initiative to provide such useful guidance on discrimination and equal opportunity legislation to its member clubs.
“Golf has a duty to ensure that those joining clubs are treated equally and equitably and do not suffer discrimination on grounds of gender, race, religion or nationality.
“The R&A works with 157 affiliated organisations worldwide, including Golf Australia, and we encourage national federations to highlight examples of best practice. I am sure others will recognise the issues raised in this guide and consider providing a similar resource in their own countries.”