Budget return on getting kids into sport

Sports minister Peter Dutton sees an ongoing return on the government’s $100 million Budget investment in sports participation.

The commitment – enabling schools to run activities across 35 major sports, including football, netball, tennis and gymnastics for three terms a year – has been given a guarded welcome by the Australian Sporting Goods Association.

Says executive director Shannon Walker, “While we would have liked to see more funding for the sporting schools initiative, the fact the funding has not decreased from previous years and is ongoing is very pleasing, particularly in a tough economic environment.”

Dutton (pictured on our homepage) says the initiative will link schools with sporting clubs to drive ongoing participation, with teachers able to access training guides and coaching courses. It will benefit around 850,000 children across more than 5000 primary schools and 80 secondary schools across Australia.

On average, it is expected that each grant would be worth around $1700.

The initiative is part of a government commitment to tackle increasing levels of obesity, particularly among children. Physical inactivity is estimated to cost the Australian health care system $1.5 billion a year in avoidable costs as a result of chronic disease.

Dutton says this is unsustainable from a health and economic perspective: “Involving children in sport-based physical activity within the school setting will encourage a lifelong interest in sport,” he says.

The Sporting Schools initiative – accessible through an interactive website – will replace the Active After-school Communities programme.

• ASGA’s Walker says the 2014-15 Budget isn’t all good news for the sporting and active lifestyle goods sector: “We are still waiting on the government to reduce or remove the low value threshold on imported goods, which forces Australian retailers to compete at a disadvantage to their overseas competitors.”

ASGA is also “greatly concerned” increased taxes and reductions in household assistance will drive down discretionary spending, making it difficult for sporting goods retailers to survive in a sector he says has only recently started to regain momentum lost during the GFC.

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