Simply, it’s the way competitors and spectators help out at a Country Week sports carnival; the way parents volunteer at a local sports facility; and the way sportspeople develop friendships and work together on and off the field.
The sport and recreation industry, community groups and local and State Government can work together to use social capital to develop social networks, friendships, cooperation and trust – all of which helps build stronger, healthier,
happier and safer communities.
Social capital and social networks are resources that bind people together1 and are the social fabric or glue of communities.2
Broken connections: current barriers
Western Australia is a truly diverse state. This gives rise to a number of challenges around building and maintaining strong connections between all community members. We know from our research that sport and recreation can help address
these challenges and improve the lifestyles of all Western Australians, resulting in strong, cohesive and connected communities.
To create the best world possible for all Western Australians, we can use sport and active recreation to address the challenges outlined below:
Social isolation and inclusivity
People are more isolated than ever before. There’s less interaction between neighbours and the extended community and less playing in the street together. This creates a disconnect and lack of trust between people and the places
Culture and participation
Western Australia is a truly multicultural state. While sport and recreation can bring communities from diverse social, cultural and economic backgrounds together to participate in a shared activity, the barriers to their participation
is higher than other groups. It can include issues like language and cultural differences and sensitivities around female participation as well as the cost of participation.
Places and Spaces
Population growth and changing neighbourhood designs put pressure on public open spaces. This requires clubs and activities to co-exist and come to harmonious use of space. Our State is also large and covers a wide variety of playing conditions
which also need to be taken into consideration and made the most of.
The increasing normality of 24-hour, seven-day-week businesses has resulted in shift-work extending outside traditional industries. Between everyday life responsibilities and work commitments, people are finding it more difficult to participate
in traditional sport and recreation activities.
Why sport and recreation is the answer
We’ve identified four key areas where sport and recreation plays an important role in strengthening and growing our communities:
Aids the development of social capital
The team spirit that develops among participants during sport activities can also spread to their daily lives.
Participating in sport helps people understand – and feel – a sense of community with people who may come from a diverse range of social groups and backgrounds.
Belonging to community organisations increases the level of trust between local residents. Membership of local sport and recreation groups in particular, is strongly associated with a person having high levels of trust within the community.
Encourages people to exercise
Research shows that the higher the level of neighbourhood social capital, the more people associate participation in sport as a positive and the stronger the likelihood of them participating in sports at least three times per week.
Providing flexibility around how sport and recreation activities are delivered within communities, can also increase participation numbers.
Activates local parks and neighbourhoods
The availability of parks is important for neighbourhood social capital and the participation of young people in physical activities. When social capital is high adolescents are more likely to participate in sport and recreation activities
and make use of local parks and open spaces.