• In 2013 Matildas legend Heather Garriock was discriminated because of her responsibilities as a carer and her complaint was dismissed (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Football’s Heather Garriock case has recently brought to the fore policies surrounding motherhood and professional sport in Australia. The ultimate goal is and should be full-time athletes and full-time work policies, including consideration for families and carers.
Sarah Leach

27 Apr 2016 - 12:58 PM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2016 - 2:05 PM

The Heather Garriock case 

In Heather Garriock’s case, The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal dismissed a complaint against Football Federation Australia (FFA) alleging they discriminated against Matildas legend Heather Garriock because of her responsibilities as a carer.

The complaint resulted after Garriock’s 2013 call-up for the USA Matildas tour. While the FFA allowed her to take a full-time carer with her on the tour for her 11 month old daughter, Kaizen, she was required to pay all travel, accommodation and other carer costs. In the end, her mother worked as carer at a total expense of $4259, herself only paid $2,440 for the tour.

Players Football Association (PFA) Chairman Craig Foster said the case represents an ideal opportunity for all parties in football to take a leap forward in providing an ideal high performance environment for three fundamental reasons: on the human level; the domestic competitive landscape and Australia’s international competitiveness.

“Football must aim to provide the finest high performance environment that can be found in any sport,” said Foster.

“Respect and fairness are also two underpinning ideals of the game.

“It cannot be right that a female player is compelled to leave her child of less than a year old in order to travel internationally to represent her country," he said

“I note that other Australian sports either have an existing policy or are working towards one, as should football. These are our domestic competitors in a highly competitive contest for female athletic talent." 

Netball Australia’s mothers and carers policy

Netball Australia is one of those other sports.

"(For Australian representatives) we cover their flight and accommodation cost of the support person and the infant, but other associated costs like food and those sorts of things, the athlete would cover those,” Netball Australia Chief Executive, Kate Palmer said.

“There’s rules around it (the policy) with team activities and commitments to the team that the athletes need to follow.

"It’s about a case by case and how you do that – an athlete being able to perform but also make sure they can be a parent."

Generally, an elite netballer will play out her career before starting a family. But this pattern is one Palmer wants to change, and Australian representative Renee Ingles, currently pregnant with twins looks to start the trend.

“It’s rare this happens but it may happen more and more as netball becomes a profession where they are paid a fair amount of money so it can be seen as a profession so we need to be ready.

“It will change as soon as we can employ athletes full-time so that they can have a child and come back into the ANZ Championship or the National program.

“As you can see from the World Cup – we’ve had about four or five pregnancies almost immediately; and Renee Ingles will probably come back, but if she wants the twins to travel when she returns to the Australian team, we actually allow for a support person to travel with the team,” Palmer said.

Palmer says the issue has been raised in discussions with other sports, and that common ground on the issue will be a positive step. 

Like Netball Australia’s pregnancy policy, which “very much aligns with the sports medicine Australia recommendations and Australian sports commission recommendations,” Palmer believes all sports can establish common ground between all sports and carers policy.

“We’re an all female sport, if we can’t look after female athletes that would not be a good thing for our sport,” Palmer added.

For sports with male counter-parts such as football, in Heather Garriock’s case, creating new policies for female athlete mothers is a re-negotiation of the culture in an organisation and an opportunity for growth in the sport.

Despite being disappointed by the decision handed to Garriock, she remains committed to furthering the rights of Australia’s female elite athletes.

“The battle to return to the workforce is a significant one for all mums and football has the capacity to be a leader on this issue,” said Garriock.

Abby Bishop and Basketball Australia (BA)

Abby Bishop is another athlete who wants her case to help further the rights of Australian female athletes.

Bishop put family first when BA ruled she would need to pay for flights, accommodation and childcare for Zala, her niece who she has full custody of, during the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Turkey.

It prompted a review of BA’s parental policy and with Bishop, a WNBL MVP, back in the Opals program this year the governing body will pay for either childcare or the cost to fly a nanny to her home base in Canberra if she is part of the Olympic squad in Brazil.

Bishop hoped her stance would benefit sportswomen who juggle a career with parental duties in the future.

“Zala will always come first. I’m just happy and respectful of Basketball Australia for re-evaluating and helping. I never wanted too much or everything paid for, just a bit of help,’’ she said last December.

“I might have helped someone else to stand up or get their sport to help with their child.”

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