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Women sport stars seize opportunity for future leadership

Australian coxswain Renae Domaschenz and Tokyo 2020 travelling reserve Ciona Wilson are among 22 women selected to take part in this year’s AIS Accelerate program, which supports the professional development of women athletes to further progress their career prospects in sport.

Now in its second year, the AIS Accelerate program for 2022 will also include the likes of retired Olympic champions Anna Meares and Danielle Woodhouse, athletics world champion Dani Stevens, Australian Basketball Hall of Famer Rachel Sporn and Paralympic stalwart Eliza Stankovic-Mowle (nee Ault-Connell).

AIS Accelerate is designed to increase the number and visibility of women in sport leadership positions by providing career coaching and leadership development for high performance women athletes. It is part of a suite of women in sport programs being delivered by the AIS and Sport Australia as part of the Women Leaders in Sport program, supported by $3.4m in funding over four years from the Office for Women.

Domaschenz, the coxswain of the PR3 Mixed Coxed Four at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics said: “While there has been progress in terms of female participation in sport, it is still not matched in terms of leadership and decision making at the highest of levels. Athletes have these skills and they’ve fine-tuned these skills across the lifespan of being an athlete.

“A place in this program will provide me with opportunity to explore further development in influencing change in society around women in elite sport.”

Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck said the Australian Government is committed to supporting our women athletes both in and out of the sporting arena.

“The AIS Accelerate program and others being delivered by this funding is about giving women the tools to reach their leadership potential,” Minister Colbeck said. “We need more gender diversity in the leadership ranks of Australian sport and the AIS Accelerate program is a tangible way to bring about real change.”

“The AIS Accelerate program is an investment in our women athletes to help them reach their leadership potential, and in the process, they will inspire women and girls across the country.”

Among the AIS Accelerate participants are 13 Olympians, two Paralympians, eight Commonwealth Games athletes and multiple world champions.

Anna Meares OAM is one of three four-time Olympians in the group and said: “I’ve had the immense privilege to represent my country on the biggest sporting stage, now I’d love to be one of those behind the scenes to bring about further growth, opportunity and experience for women in the space I love, ‘Sport’.

“Being a part of the AIS Accelerate program is where I’m starting to make that happen.”

Australian Sports Commission Chair Josephine Sukkar AM said she was not only impressed by the calibre of athletes attracted to the program, but excited about their ongoing potential to contribute to Australian sport.

“Retaining the experience and skills of women athletes after they retire is crucial to the continued success of Australian sport,” Ms Sukkar said. “This is an extraordinary group of women. They have a combined experience of 31 Olympic and Paralympic Games appearances, ranging from Atlanta in 1996 through to Tokyo in 2021, as well at multiple Commonwealth Games and World Championships.

“The experience formed from representing your country at this level is invaluable and it is important that we make sure this experience is utilised to help guide and shape Australian sport into the future.”

Renae Domaschenz bio

Ciona Wilson bio