3-year priority 2013–16: More people physically active, participating in sport and walking.


Less than a third of Australians get enough physical activity to benefit their health.

VicHealth’s Physical Activity, Sport and Walking Investment Plan (2014–18) uses a whole-of-population approach to getting more Victorians active, in particular through sport and walking. It has a specific focus on engaging those who are inactive (or somewhat active) to become more active.

As part of this plan, we continue to work with our diverse partners to find ways for people to build physical activity into their daily lives, whether that be through sport, active recreation, active travel or the arts.


Walk to School

Through Walk to School, we continue to encourage physical activity from a young age. In October 2015, a record number of primary school students (108,997) and primary schools (620) participated across Victoria. The participating students walked more than 1.2 million kilometres, the equivalent of walking almost 32 times around the world.

These results represent an increase from 2014 with 38 per cent more students and 24 per cent more schools participating.

Walk to School is particularly relevant at a time when childhood obesity is high and four in five Victorian students are not getting the daily physical activity they need.

Parental fear research

Which children are are most likely to meet Australian physical activity guidelines? Those who play and travel without an adult and those who walk or cycle to school. These are part of the findings from research that investigated the role of parental fear in shaping children’s independence and physical activity, the first of its kind in Australia. 

The three-year VicHealth study, undertaken by La Trobe University and the Parenting Research Centre, included a survey of more than 2000 parents of children aged nine to 15 across Victoria. It found:

  • 48 per cent of parents worried about their child’s safety when not with an adult because a stranger might approach them
  • 28 per cent were fearful that if their child walked or cycled somewhere in the neighbourhood, the child might be at risk because of strangers.

In 2015, we published the research outcomes as well as a practical guide for parents on supporting children to be safe when travelling independently.

Park and walk grants

VicHealth research revealed children living more than 2 kilometres away from their school were unlikely to walk there. Survey data also showed that 75 per cent of Victorian parents with children under 12 would consider using a ‘park and walk’ facility to travel with their children to school.

VicHealth therefore partnered with Victoria Walks and three Victorian councils in a pilot program that enabled children to walk part of the way to school.

Subsequently, we offered park and walk grants to fund footpaths (or shared paths) that connected primary schools to car parking areas 500 to 1000 metres away. Grants were awarded to four schools: Bass Valley Primary School (Bass Coast Shire), Bayles Regional Primary School (Cardinia Shire) and Holy Cross Catholic Primary and Gisborne Montessori School (both in Macedon Ranges Shire).

Altogether, we received 34 grant applications from councils. This demonstrates that councils have a strong need for funding to build pedestrian infrastructure.

Active Club Grants

This year we granted more than $1.6 million through two rounds of Active Club Grants. These grants assisted 624 Victorian sport and recreation clubs to buy core sporting equipment to increase or maintain people’s participation in sport.

Clubs have primarily used the equipment to establish or expand teams, programs or competitions to reach new audiences; or improve the efficiency, safety or quality of their sport programs.

For the first time, larger grants of up to $10,000 were available (as well as the traditional grants of up to $3000). A total of 18 (nine in each funding round) of these larger grants were provided to clubs aiming for greater impact and/or to respond to local population growth.

In 2016–17, VicHealth will provide funding to community sport clubs to increase participation in community sport. The funding will prioritise two areas – participation by women and girls, and participation in social and modified forms of sport.

State Sport Program

Under VicHealth’s State Sport Program, we worked with 23 state sporting associations to break down some of the barriers to participation in traditional sporting activities such as time constraints, accessibility and cost.

Associations have been able to tailor how they deliver their sport to attract and retain people who aren't active enough. Many of the new ideas are a simple variation on a traditional sport – for example, a low-cost, social format that allows people to play in a short amount of time. Through this program, a number of associations are also championing healthy food and beverage choices on the field, in the clubhouse and across the community.

We also partnered with nine Regional Sports Assemblies under the Regional Sport Program to support growth in physical activity and increase the availability and supply of water in regional sporting clubs, leagues and facilities.

Community Activation Program

The VicHealth Community Activation Program provided $240,000 to five selected councils to physically and visually transform a public space within a community and 'activate' it to inspire local people to become more physically active.

Between June 2015 and June 2016, Brimbank, Golden Plains, Latrobe, Manningham and Melton councils transformed and activated an under-utilised space within their community. For example, Melton transformed a piece of vacant land to encourage a range of physical activities including circus skills, dance, tai chi and sport.

While these are pilot projects, they have been developed with a view to creating long-term change within the community.

Innovation Challenge: Physical Activity

In 2015–16 we invited sporting bodies to rise to our Innovation Challenge: Physical Activity to test new ideas and make a real impact on increasing physical activity for Victorians.

Eighteen sporting organisations were awarded funding. Fourteen are delivering pilot programs that offer new sporting and recreation experiences to inspire a wider range of people to be more active. A further four received funds to explore new ideas.

Pilot programs saw squash played in shopping centres, our LGBTIQ community playing water polo in blow-up tubes, and older adults playing walking basketball and walking soccer. We also increased children’s use of council BMX tracks through school workshops, and provided new opportunities for parents to play softball alongside their children at playgroups.

It was a big year for innovation in physical activity and we look forward to seeing a number of our pilot programs continue.

Changing the Game – female participation in sport

 As women get older, their participation in sport and physical activity declines for many reasons, such as time, cost and inflexible opportunities. VicHealth created our Changing the Game initiative to increase the number of women and girls who are physically active, while raising the profile of women’s sport in the media and championing the important role women play in sports’ leadership and management.

Through the initiative, we’ve funded six sporting codes to develop innovative sports programs that are more appealing to women and girls who are inactive or somewhat inactive. These new sporting opportunities that meet women’s needs and interests could also address some of the reasons why women have previously found it difficult to get active.

The activities on offer are AFL Active, Social Spin, Move My Way, Rock Up Netball, Coasting (stand up paddle boarding) and Get Into Cardio Tennis. Each session offers a supportive group environment where all fitness levels and abilities are catered for, and where judgment is left at the door. AFL Victoria, Cycling Victoria, Gymnastics Victoria, Netball Victoria, Surfing Victoria and Tennis Victoria (in partnership with Tennis Australia) all partnered with VicHealth for the program.

Many women have a strong intent to be more active and so the #FindYourMotivation campaign, part of Changing the Game, sought to turn that intention into action by helping women to get started and rediscover how good it feels to get active while socialising and having fun.

Emma Kearney, a school teacher who also plays as a midfielder for the Western Bulldogs in the AFL, and as a fast bowler in the Women’s Big Bash League for the Melbourne Stars, says it’s important to do something that you enjoy. “I know my mum, who’s retired from sport, is more sedentary than she used to be,” says Kearney. “I encourage her to go for a walk or a run with her friends. Exercising with family and friends is a great way to develop that a bit better.”

“It’s still a stereotype that women are looking after the kids,” says Kearney, which may be why it’s sometimes easier for women to do flexible classes or fitness activities, rather than committing organised sport.

As part of Changing the Game, VicHealth became the first major partner for the Melbourne Stars and Renegades Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) cricket teams. CEO Jerril Rechter described the partnership as a major step in increasing participation and ensuring that women’s sport gets the recognition it deserves. “By raising the profile of women’s sport and promoting the sporting achievements of women, we want to inspire more women to get involved in sport and get active.”

Emma Kearney is a perfect example of a talented sportswoman performing at the highest level on the national stage. Seeing Kearney take a mark with the Bulldogs or a wicket with the Melbourne Stars might be just the sort of sporting motivation the average Victorian girl or woman needs to start getting active again.

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