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Endorsed 17 May 2016
Review 1 February 2017


The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries considers sport and recreation to play a vital role in improving the health and well-being of all people regardless of their age, gender, religion, cultural background, sexual orientation, disability, income or geographical location.

The Department supports the Equal Opportunity Commission’s Policy Framework for Substantive Equality with its purpose to eliminate systemic discrimination and achieve its vision to create an inclusive and harmonious Western Australia, where all are treated equitably and fairly and are able to reach their full potential with dignity and respect.

Sports are encouraged to develop inclusive policies, programs and services. 


Inclusive participation is about recognising differences between individuals/groups, and is achieved when all Western Australians feel engaged, welcomed and provided with practical opportunities to participate.

For sport and recreation to flourish and grow there needs to be continual evolution and implementation of practical strategies to make environments fair, safe and inclusive for all. 


  • Several population groups have low participation compared to the total population.
  • Low participation groups generally do not have the adequate resources to enable them to achieve participation rates equal to or close to the total population.


Western Australia’s diverse population is its strength as well as a challenge. The challenge is to facilitate a good quality of life for Western Australians while ensuring that those who are vulnerable, due to a variety of circumstances, are assisted and supported to achieve a similar quality of life to their peers. 

The Equal Opportunity Commission's Policy Framework for Substantive Equality is the guiding mechanism for government and community organisations to achieve this. Substantive equality involves achieving equitable outcomes as well as equal opportunity.

Sport is widely regarded as a core component of inclusion in Australian communities through its ability to engage people from a variety of backgrounds. Taking part with others in mutually enjoyable sporting activities or as part of a club is a way of forming and maintaining relationships. It can contribute to social inclusion and a sense of belonging and promote trust, cooperation and tolerance. 

The continual adaption and innovation of programs and services can deliver more diverse participation opportunities (e.g. new environments, scheduling variations, sport product variations and new pursuits). The Play by the Rules 7 Pillars of Inclusion is a suitable resource for clubs and sporting organisations to create inclusive sport and recreation environments.

The department has a focus on increasing participation rates amongst the following low-participation groups; Aboriginal people, Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds, People with disability, Youth, Seniors, Women and Low socio-economic backgrounds. 

Aboriginal people

Participation among Aboriginal people in sport and recreation is much lower at a rate of 30% compared with non-Aboriginal people whom participate at a rate of 65% (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012).

Western Australia has the highest proportion of Aboriginal people within its population, compared to other states and territories in Australia. An estimated 88,000 people are from an Aboriginal background.

The large geographical size of Western Australia provides a unique challenge to delivering sport and recreation programs to remote Aboriginal communities. 

It is important for sport and recreation providers to engage with Aboriginal communities when developing targeted sport and recreation programs.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse people

Participation among those born overseas in a non-English speaking country have a significantly lower participation rates at 17.5% compared with the general Australian population at 65% (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012).

Australia’s population is changing in size and diversity, as are the communities in which sport operates. Western Australia is one of the most multicultural states in Australia with almost one-third of the population born overseas (Office of Multicultural Interests, 2013).

Sport can and does play a vital role in contributing to positive settlement outcomes, promoting social inclusion and supporting migrant and refugee integration into society.

The department’s How to be more inclusive of people from diverse backgrounds is a publication designed for clubs and sport and recreation organisations to increase understanding of the barriers migrants and refugees experience in sport and recreation, and explore the benefits of being inclusive to increase participation.   

People with disability

Participation rates in sport among people with disability are significantly lower compared with able bodied people. In adults, participation rates are 30% and 65% respectively (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012).

People with disability include individuals with physical, sensory, intellectual, psychiatric, and/or other health-related disabilities. All people regardless of ability should have access to sport and recreation opportunities and receive the same physical, mental and social benefits from participating (Clearinghouse for Sport, 2016).

People with disability who require attendant care support to participate at community venues and activities have a right to equal participation in the community.

The department is affiliated with the Companion Card program, which assists people with a significant, permanent disability, who can demonstrate that they are unable to access most community activities and venues without attendant care support. The department strongly encourages all community sporting venues to affiliate with the Companion program.

The Disability Services Commission’s Count Me In is a long-term strategy to guide all Western Australians when responding to people with disability. It has a vision that ‘All people live in welcoming communities that facilitate citizenship, friendship, mutual support and a fair go for everyone’. A key focus area is participation and contribution for people with disability in all aspects of life.

The department has produced Including people with disability in sport and recreation publication which provides advice when engaging people with disability.  This publication also includes the inclusion spectrum which outlines alternative modes to focus on modifying activities to support inclusion. It is important to balance maximising individual potential and maintaining activity integrity.


Like other developed countries, Australia’s population is aging. The number of Australians aged 65 and over is expected to increase rapidly, from around 13% of the population in 2002 to around 25% by 2042 (Clearinghouse for Sport, 2016). 

Participation generally decreases with age. People aged 15-17 years have the highest participation rates at 78% in sport and recreation, while people aged 65 years and over had the lowest participation rates at 50.4% (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012).

The aging process is often accompanied by significant declines in physical, cognitive, and/or social function that leads to loss of independence and quality of life, while contributing to substantial economic costs.

Being active through the older years in sport and recreation can improve physical, mental and emotional well-being. It also helps maintain and build new friendships through being an active part of the community.

The Seniors Recreation Council of WA supports seniors’ involvement in sport and recreation within Western Australia.


The transition from childhood to adulthood is an important phase in building lifelong habits towards leading a healthy, active lifestyle.

Engaging youth to be physically active, through sport and recreation is important for promoting health and wellbeing of individuals, and building stronger, healthier, happier and safer communities across Western Australia. 

The department focuses on various areas of Youth based upon differences in culture, ability, gender, age and socio-economic status.  


Gender differences in the rate of sports participation exists across all activities (including participants, coaches, officials, administrators and board directors), age categories, and in most population sub-groups.

Females within segments of the population, including persons with disability, culturally and linguistically diverse, Aboriginal, young girls, teenagers and mature age Australians, are generally under-represented in sport participation compared with their male cohort.

Low socio-economic

Socio-economic status is a measure of an individual’s or family’s economic and social position based on education, income and occupation.

Evidence suggest that participation rates are lower in individuals whom have either no formal education qualifications, low income or are less skilled.

People living in the most disadvantaged areas may be vulnerable to risk factors for social exclusion, such as limited access to medical and transport services, potentially leading to isolation from  broader society. Sport and recreation contributes to building social inclusion and promotes a sense of belonging.

The department uses the Australian Bureau of Statistics Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas to identify geographical areas for targeted inclusive participation program and service delivery.

The Australian Governments Health Care Card system is also used by the department to target programs and services that do not have a geographical focus. 


The department works collaboratively with a broad range of industry stakeholders to deliver inclusive participation strategies, programs and services that provide Western Australians with opportunities to feel engaged, welcomed and to practically participate in sport and recreation.

The department:

  • advocates for inclusive sport and recreation environments;
  • facilitates relationships between agencies and the community;
  • raises awareness regarding inclusion and sport and recreation in the community;
  • provides support to targeted State Sporting Associations and Industry Representative Organisations to identify inclusion development strategies in their strategic and operational plans; and
  • Connects low participation groups to their community through the vehicle of sport and recreation. 

Examples of projects include:

  • KidSport enables eligible Western Australian children aged 5-18 years to participate in community sport and recreation by offering financial assistance towards club fees.  54,000 unique kids have been supported through KidSport between September 2011 and March 2016 – representing a total investment of over $14.5million. 18% of kids are from an Aboriginal background and 8% are from Cultural and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds.
  • Inclusive Sports Funding Scheme is designed to integrate inclusive practices into State Sporting Associations at policy and program levels. $2.2 million has been invested between 2009 and 2016 across 20 State Sporting Associations whom collectively target the following low participation groups; Aboriginal people, Cultural and Linguistically Diverse and People with Disability.


Manager, Community Participation
Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries – Sport and Recreation
Telephone 61 8 6552 7300


Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation, Australia 2012. Catalogue no. 4156.0, Canberra, Australia. Retrieved in April 2016 from

Clearinghouse for Sport (2016) Persons with a Disability and Sport, Canberra, Australia. Retrieved in April 2016 from

Clearinghouse for Sport (2016) Mature-aged Sport and Physical Activity, Canberra, Australia. Retrieved in April 2016 from

Office of Multicultural Interests (2013) Cultural Diversity in Western Australia: A Demographic Profile, Perth, Western Australia; Government of Western Australia.

Useful websites

Page reviewed 11 September 2023