A REGIONAL Victorian woman is stepping up her call for football-netball clubs to ban players under a no tolerance policy for violence against women.
Mildura-based Kim O'Reilly launched the campaign and took it national this year after her former partner and abuser was allowed to play football for a western Victoria club despite breaking bail multiple times on assault charges.
After one match with the club, key club personnel wrote character references for the man.
Ms O'Reilly, speaking in a Women's Health Grampians forum on Wednesday, said there was a lack of education and understanding on what was "very much a silenced subject" within male-dominated sports.
Her call is for clubs to pledge to stand down players for a two-week minimum under pending charges, then for players to be automatically stood down from the club and league when charged.
I've had many questions along the way about what happens if it's your best player - then if it's your best player they probably shouldn't be playing for you. They shouldn't be put up on this pedestal.Kim O'Reilly
"I believe that with violence within sports there needs to be some sort of mandatory consequence and that policy I've put together it's a two-week minimum," Ms O'Reilly said.
"For some reason we protect the players that can kick a football, for example, but I don't think we support the women going through it, or the club or the committee that need help. This is not just a football issues, this is definitely a community issue.
"...I've had many questions along the way about what happens if it's your best player - then if it's your best player they probably shouldn't be playing for you. They shouldn't be put up on this pedestal where they've got crowds applaud to them every weekend when off the field they're not doing the right thing."
Women's Health Grampians has been working to update its Communities of Respect and Equality strategy, better known as CoRE, including its Act at Play push for improving gender equality and culture in sporting clubs.
Ms O'Reilly said sport has a massive impact and influence on regional and rural communities - grand final wins were a massive economic boost for towns - but with that came great responsibility in setting a standard for what was acceptable behaviour.
She said it was a positive move for a club to acknowledge where it might have not got the culture right, to re-educate and make clear where it could and would do better. Under Ms O'Reilly's policy, clubs would make an annual pledge with updated education.
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Minyip-Murtoa 300-gamer and coach Scott Arnold told the forum his club was getting better at calling out bad behaviour. The Wimmera Football Netball League club is a CoRE signee and boasts gender parity on its board. Mr Arnold said the club still had a way to go but it was about working together to break down stereotypes.
Western Bulldogs board member Jerril Rechter, a former chief executive for VicHealth and Basketball Australia, also presented to the forum on need for greater gender equity in sport, from the elite down to the grassroots, to drive social change.
Affected by this story? There is help available. You can phone the Ballarat Centre Against Sexual Assault, in Sebastopol, on 5320 3933. Or phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277.