3 year priority: More people physically active, playing sport and walking, with a focus on women and girls.



Fewer than one in three Australians is getting enough physical activity to benefit their health.

This can lead to increased risks of chronic disease and mental ill health, and has been estimated to cost the Australian economy a total of $13.8 billion each year. Increasing physical activity doesn’t just benefit our physical fitness and reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer; it also protects and improves our mental wellbeing.

Female participation in sport is still lower than male involvement, and many women and girls are failing to fit the recommended 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity into their week.

VicHealth’s focus is on helping more Victorians, particularly women, make physical activity part of everyday life. We also continue to invest in one of the most effective strategies to increase physical activity across the population: making it easier and safer to walk for short trips and active recreation.


Gender equality in sport

Sport is sport, regardless of who’s playing it. Sport should be inclusive, equal, respected and encouraged at all levels for a healthier lifestyle. By creating an even playing field for all sportspersons whether female or male, we can contribute to a fairer community.

VicHealth’s Changing The Game: Increasing female participation in sport program provided a $1.8 million investment to create six flexible and social sport programs: AFL Active (AFL Victoria together with AFL), Social Spin (Cycling Victoria), Move My Way (Gymnastics Victoria), Rock Up Netball (Netball Victoria), Coasting (Surfing Victoria) and Get Into Cardio Tennis (Tennis Victoria together with Tennis Australia). The outcomes of these sport programs contribute to VicHealth’s continued commitment to increase participation, profile and leadership of women in sport.

This commitment includes announcing further funding over the next three years under our Active Women and Girls for Health and Wellbeing program. The investment aims to create new opportunities for women’s participation in sport, increase the profile of women’s sport and improve attitudes towards gender equality in sport, and improve sport policy and practice to create welcoming and inclusive environments for women and girls.

The program will build on VicHealth’s work on gender equality in sport, particularly over the past five years, and leverage our initial $1.8 million investment under the Changing The Game program to get more women and girls physically active through sport.

While there is further work to be done to continue to change attitudes, during 2016–17 VicHealth partnered with teams from the AFLW, Women’s Big Bash League and Women’s National Basketball League to raise the profile of women’s sport. Many athletes supported the #ChangeOurGame campaign including Melbourne Demons marquee player Daisy Pearce, Australian cricket star Meg Lanning, Carlton captain Lauren Arnell, cricketers Gemma Triscari and Molly Strano, basketballers Lauren Jackson and Maddie Garrick and former Australian Diamonds Captain and Melbourne Stars board member Sharelle McMahon.


Walk to School

VicHealth’s annual Walk to School month encourages primary school children to walk, ride or scoot to or from school to kickstart healthy habits for life.

Victorian primary students who took part in Walk to School in October 2016 have smashed previous records by walking 1.6 million kilometres – the equivalent to two return trips to the moon! A record 758 schools took part with a total of 144,928 students participating, a significant increase from 2015.


Active Club Grants

VicHealth’s grants program for community sporting clubs has been supporting local sport clubs in remote, rural, regional and metropolitan areas across Victoria to get more Victorians living healthier and happier lives for nearly three decades.

In 2016–17, the Active Club Grants provided funding to increase opportunities Victorians have to participate in sport through community clubs, prioritising female participation and social and modified forms of sports. We awarded $930,000 to 318 sport clubs across Victoria.


Active Arts

VicHealth’s $250,000 Active Arts Grants initiative has funded three new projects connecting councils and the community to build physical activity, resilience and social connection and cohesion through active arts programs.

The successful councils, Latrobe City Council, Melton City Council and Greater Shepparton City Council, are now developing their projects. They include a music and performance program for young people and an arts program that will provide a range of activities for Sudanese young people, Indian women and people with a disability to build the capacity of participants to become community leaders.

For the fourth year in a row we supported White Night Melbourne, as well as participating in the first White Night Ballarat, giving Victorians a great chance to get moving and have fun through art. VicHealth’s contribution at both events was Swing City, a 12-hour dance marathon featuring almost every form of social dance, set to the big band music of the 30s, 40s and 50s.


Victoria Walks

With 63 per cent of Australian adults and 25 per cent of children overweight or obese, and physical inactivity costing the Australian economy an estimated $13.8 billion every year, encouraging regular movement into our daily lives is crucial. Walking is one of the most accessible forms of physical activity and delivers significant physical and mental health benefits.

We have committed to continue our support of Victoria Walks with funding of $1.05 million over three years, to encourage more Victorians to walk for recreation and transport. The funding will enable Victoria Walks to deliver innovative walking participation projects, support Walk to School and work collaboratively with all levels of government to increase walking in Victoria.

The Change to Walking program was delivered in partnership with VicHealth and five Victorian councils as part of our behavioural insights trials to help people live healthier lifestyles. The program used behavioural insights to determine if ‘nudge’ approaches could prompt people to change to walking for short trips. As a result of this trial, the program found that up to 94 per cent of participants were influenced to walk more; two thirds of people intended to continue walking after participating and overall, participants increased their total physical activity by up to 42 per cent.


Innovation Challenge Sport - Escaping Your Comfort Zone

Spending five months cycling between Canada and Mexico gave Richelle Olsen plenty of time to think about how to turn her idea for a hiking program for plus-size women into a reality. 

When she returned to Melbourne, Richelle resigned from her job as a business analyst and started Escaping Your Comfort Zone, a hiking and walking program designed to change women’s lives.

Richelle is a keen cyclist, hiker and walker with a passion for adventure. But Richelle’s idea was to share the walking and hiking experience with less active women who might feel intimidated by the usual types of exercise on offer.

She trialled her initiative with 14 walkers around Lysterfield Lake Park and it didn’t take long for Richelle to see the positive impact the activity had on plus-size women. Since then there have been hundreds of hikes across Melbourne and Geelong and there is a fast-growing community of hikers, now supported by funding from VicHealth’s Innovation Challenge: Sport.

The VicHealth Innovation Challenge provides funding to get more Victorians moving and playing sport more often. It started in 2014 with the intention of getting sports organisations to think differently about what they offered their communities to address trends in sport participation, particularly for more fun, social and flexible options. A key focus is to engage new groups of participants to be active through sport, especially those with low physical activity levels.

“The world in general often tells us what’s wrong with us, and that’s particularly true for plus-size women who are told ‘We can fix you’,” Richelle says. “We say, ‘You’re great the way you are.’

It’s about fun with friends, not weight loss.” The Escaping Your Comfort Zone walks are not intended to be exhausting – 90 per cent are aimed at beginners – but there are some longer walks for those who want more challenging activity.

Central to VicHealth’s Innovation Challenge approach is to test innovations and ideas that tackle the impediments to people becoming more active and playing sport. VicHealth has long-established partnerships with Victoria’s major sports organisations but the Innovation Challenge has encouraged sport organisations to create new partnerships in order to engage with less active audiences. For example, Escaping Your Comfort Zone is affiliated with Bushwalking Victoria, while Cricket Victoria has partnered with Proud2Play – an organisation representing the LGBTI community – in an Innovation Challenge education program to foster a welcoming environment for LGBTI young people to take part in cricket.

Richelle’s next challenge is pushing into Melbourne’s western suburbs and the Mornington Peninsula where she knows there’s a need for her program. “My aim for the next 12 months is to increase the number of volunteer leaders, and build that database, and to get more hiking,” she says. 


Infographic: 90% of walks are aimed at beginners | Since 2014, the VicHealth Innovation Challenge has funded sporting and active recreation groups across 36 projects.