AIS program targets gender diversity for coaches and executives

Former Australian cricketer Shelley Nitschke and two-time Olympic water polo representative Bec Rippon are among 32 women from 20 sports selected for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Talent Program, which is designed to address the under-representation of women in coaching and executive roles in high performance sport.

In a press release issued on 17 March 2022, Australia’s Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck announced the 16 coaches and 16 executives who have been selected for the intensive Women Leaders in Sport (WLIS) professional development programs funded by the Australian Government’s Office for Women and Sport Australia.

The AIS Talent program has been designed to be a catalyst for identified women leaders to further progress their career potential in sport, this year with an emphasis on coaching and executive positions.

“We want the participants in this program to grow their leadership presence as individuals, but also to be influential in shifting mind-sets and behaviours in sport and broader community,” Minister Colbeck said.

“The Australian Government has been strong and consistent in our approach to increasing opportunities for women and girls at all levels of sport, from participation in community sport through to the leaders running our organisations.

“We’ve made no secret of our aspiration to have a greater proportion of women in leadership roles in Australian sport and it’s encouraging to see the wide range of sports and organisations engaging with this AIS Talent program.

“The next decade in particular, leading up to the 2032 Brisbane Games, will be one of the most exciting chapters in Australian sporting history. It’s crucial that we have the right talent, diversity and balance within the leadership ranks of our sporting system, whether it be in the boardroom or in the sporting arena.”

This is the second time the AIS Talent Program has had a high performance coach focus, with alumni including two-time Olympic gold medallist Katrina Powell, the first woman coach of the Hockeyroos in 43 years. Like Katrina, former Australian allrounder Shelley Nitschke has also successfully transitioned from athlete to coach and is currently at the Women’s World Cup in New Zealand as the Assistant Coach of the Australian Cricket Team.

“I’m honoured to have been accepted into the AIS Talent Program alongside some amazing women from across the sporting sector and I’m looking forward to connecting with them and getting stuck into the program,” Nitschke said.

“The program presents a wonderful opportunity for me to further myself both personally and professionally and I’m hoping it will help taking my coaching to a new level.”

Running in conjunction to the AIS Women High Performance Coach Talent Program will be a program focused on supporting and elevating women in executive positions in sport.

Debbie Savage, the National High Performance Manager at Skate Australia, said: ” I’m thrilled to be selected for the AIS Executive Talent Program. It’s an exciting opportunity to be afforded time to develop my own professional capabilities as an executive leader in Skateboarding, whilst strengthening my network with other amazing women in the high performance sport system who are sharing a similar journey.”

AIS Director Matti Clements said: “The calibre of participants selected for this year’s AIS Talent Program is proof of the incredible skill and experience that already exists in Australian high performance sport.

“But there is no hiding from the fact that women are still under-represented in both coaching and executive ranks. I would like to thank the Australian Government and Office for Women for giving the AIS resources to help change this and look forward to seeing the AIS Talent participants help drive greater diversity in Australian sport.”

For more information about the AIS Talent Program, visit the AIS website here.


2022 AIS Female Sport Executive Talent Program: 

Megan Carr, Female Engagement Manager VIC, Golf Australia

Christine Harman, General Counsel and Company Secretary, Cricket Australia

Rana Hussain, Inclusion and Diversity Manager, Cricket Australia

Dee Jennings, Performance and Planning Manager, Hockey Australia

Cassie Lindsey, Inclusion and Diversity Manager, Geelong Football Club

Jane Louise Woodlands-Thompson, Director/ Consultant, Activebods

Sarah Luttrell, Senior Legal Counsel, Tennis Australia

Jane McGough, General Manager – Consumer, Community and Marketing, Gold Coast SUNS Football Club

Tracey Menzies-Stegbauer, Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Manager, Gymnastics Australia

Carolyn Morrison, Performance Services Program Manager, Western Australian Institute of Sport

Jenni Thom, HR and Finance Manager, Shooting Australia

Jodie Newton, Acting Chief Executive Officer, South Australian Cricket Association

Melanie Purkiss, Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Manager, Athletics Australia

Rachel Ratini, General Manager – Sport Operations, Equestrian Australia

Debbie Savage, National High Performance Manager, Skate Australia

Rebekah Webster, General Manager- Vixens, Performance & Pathways, Netball Victoria & the Melbourne Vixens


2022 AIS Female High Performance Coach Talent Program: 

Ash Ankudinoff, Coach, SASI

Alison Bombardier, Manager and Assistant Coach Para Alpine Ski Team, Snow Australia

Belinda Cox Gymnastics, Manager – Pathways and Performance, NSW Trampoline

Taís de Morais Rochel, Fencing Coach/ Personal Trainer, Australian Fencing Federation

Rebecca Dicello, Head Endurance Cycling Coach, NSWIS

Lucy Glanville, 2022 Youth/Junior World Championships Head Coach, Australian Biathlon Association

Belinda Goss, Cycling Coach, TIS

Harriet May Jones, Head Diving Coach, VIS

Shelley Nitschke, Assistant Coach – Australian Women’s Team, Cricket Australia

Kerry O’Sullivan, AFLW Development Coach, West Coast Eagles Football Club

Catherine Paice, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Football Queensland/QAS

Rebecca Rippon, Women’s Water Polo Head Coach, NSWIS

Jaime Swavley, Sailing Coach, Australian Sailing

Michelle Tickner, Head Coach and Founder, Team 360 Performance

Christine Voge, Assistant Coach, Sunshine Coast Lightning Netball Club

Taryn Woods, Associate, Communication and Stakeholder Engagement, Water Polo Australia

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