100 Years of Australian Rules Women’s Football: Amy Doherty Gives Us The Lowdown

We catch up with writer, curation consultant and wunderkind Amy Doherty to talk about the upcoming Bounce Down Exhibition — at the Western Australian State Library from May 22nd to July 31st.

Amy Doherty

Could you tell us about the project you’re working on currently?

I’ve been working on social media and curation consulting on the Bounce Down Exhibition which celebrates and showcases the centenary of Australian Rules Women’s Football!

How did you first get involved with the project?

I became involved with the exhibition after hearing about it from the amazing Organiser; Brunette Lenkic. Brunette Lenkic had been collecting the stories for a while and was so moved by them, and the history she uncovered, that she decided to take on putting together the biggest exhibition on Australian Rules Women’s Football yet. These are stories and histories worth sharing and celebrating.

Having played football briefly at school, and having cousins who currently play, I know not only how great the game is, but how it’s almost this secret community that no one else seems to hear about. I was stunned to learn that women’s football had been going on for 100 years. And anyone I asked never even came close to guessing the women’s game had such a long history. Another fact that surprised people, is that women’s football originated — not in Victoria — but here in Perth! It’s important to recognise WA’s significant contributions to sporting history, not just the east coast’s.

Why is it so important for female athletes to be given more exposure in the media?

It’s vital for female athletes to have more exposure in the media so more people can enjoy the game. Currently, Australian Rules Women’s Football is going to make its television game debut this year. Again, it’s been going for 100 years. They are fantastic athletes who deserve to be broadcasted. And girls’ Aussie Rules football is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia. It’s outpacing a lot of others and there should be a path for the future, a ladder to climb for our female sporting champions of tomorrow.

How can social media be used to help the issue?

Social media can be a great help for exhibitions, and sporting communities like this, as not only is it good exposure, but it helps connect people. The players, clubs, coaches, fans can find each other and interact in ways that can encourage the women’s game to grow. For so long they’ve been separated by distance or had their heads down, concentrating on their own local games, which has contributed to this almost hidden, century-old community. Too often women’s history is left unrecorded, or not as acknowledged, often seen as ‘personal history’, something to be left in the family. I’ve heard stories of players, only recently discovering their mother has played football, and grandmothers and aunts going way back that they never knew about. Some are athletes from a long line of players of this very Australian game, and those legacies are something to be celebrated. Particularly as Australian Rules Women’s Football has been the lifeblood of many country towns, and that it has and continues to be an avenue for charitable fundraising, especially for mental health issues which need support.

The more we learn about and showcase the varied, numerous and fascinating stories of Australian women and girls, the richer we are as a culture. The more people can share and connect, the stronger the community, the louder the voices for a national women’s competition.

What would you like to see as a result of the project?

I would like people to go to the WA State Library and check out the exhibition! It’s going to be larger than life, with a few surprises and interactive elements. It’s not only a wonderful slice of history of Australian women, but a sport on the brink of monumental change, becoming a massive, validated, more connected community. I hope people feel as inspired by the exhibition, and encouraged to play and support the game. I’d love it if hardworking, dedicated and talented players like my cousins actually got a future in the sport that they love. I went to school with a guy who ended up playing for Collingwood in the AFL which was great to see, and it would be wonderful to see the same opportunities for girls. I look forward to watching the AFL step up and deliver what they announced this year, organising and supporting a national women’s competition.

What work would you like to take on next?

Currently I’m developing a few transmedia projects, as I love exploring telling stories in new ways. I also enjoy story editing; helping writers and filmmakers make great projects even better.

Don’t miss the Bounce Down Exhibition !— Find it at the WA State Library May 22nd to July 31st 2015.

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