My matter is for the Minister for Sport.
It’s about the interaction of the Government’s COVID-19 reopening roadmap with the activities of sporting clubs in regional Victoria.
Unfortunately, as everyone knows, the advent of COVID has exerted a devastating impact on the staging of sport at all levels in Victoria throughout 2020.
Between March and July, the Regional Sport Victoria (or RSV) network undertook an extensive research project on this impact. As such, they directly surveyed more than 500 regional Victorian sporting clubs, leagues and associations.
One of the conclusions of the research – probably very unsurprisingly – was that sport and recreation plays a crucial role in forging very strong social bonds and cohesion in a multitude of regional communities.
What also resonated among the findings were sporting organisations’ collective and very high levels of concern about any threats to their members’ ongoing physical health and social wellbeing.
I might add that, right throughout the COVID period, these organisations have continued to remain very mindful of the consequences for many people of an ongoing lack of social connection and physical activity.
To those ends, RSV and Valley Sport (which represents a multitude of sporting clubs right across the Goulburn Valley region) have now put to me three main recommendations to aid a carefully-progressed resumption of sport across rural and regional Victoria.
The first of these is that the last step of the roadmap, in particular, be remodelled – so that it is not predicated on a combined trigger for BOTH Melbourne and regional Victoria of no new COVID cases for at least 14 days.
The second is that five regional zones (Barwon South West, Gippsland, Grampians, Hume and Loddon Mallee) be established to help enable a quicker return to normal life in any or all of those areas suitably unaffected by COVID for at least a fortnight, including for sport and recreation.
The third is that some of the rules around the participation in organised sport of people under the age of 18 be relaxed for regional areas.
I would obviously be happy to supply the Minister’s office with more details of these recommendations if needed.
Otherwise, and set against that background, the action I seek is a response to these proposals from RSV and Valley Sport. In other words, I ask whether the Minister agrees they would be worth pursuing for the potential benefit of people across rural and regional Victoria wanting not only a return of sporting activities but also the increased community spirit and cohesion facilitated by them.