An innovative training and mentoring program developed by a Griffith University graduate is helping to improve career prospects for female sports journalists from the Asia-Pacific.

It was during a sports broadcasting collaboration in Papua New Guinea in 2010 that award-winning ABC journalist Aaron Kearney became keenly aware of the dearth of opportunities for women in sports media.

Eight years later — time that included completing a Master in Communication at Griffith University in 2014 — Aaron is now Commentary Lead for the innovative Women in News and Sport (WINS) program.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has partnered with ABC International Development to deliver WINS through which female journalists from the Asia-Pacific are learning the skills to forge careers in a traditionally male-dominated sector.

The program works across three areas to —

  • provide skills training and industry knowledge;
  • improve multi-platform content creation, with a special focus on women’s sport;
  • network with other women in media and sport.

Six WINS-trained female journalists will soon be on the Gold Coast for further experience under the guidance of Aaron and fellow ABC commentator and WINS trainer Tracey Holmes. The journalists include two from India and one each from PNG, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu. The program has also rolled out in Vietnam.

Aaron’s journalism career has spanned newspapers, television and radio. He says his time at Griffith was crucial to the development of the WINS system.

“There are vast cultural differences across the Asia-Pacific region. However, there are also commonalities and one of those is the lack of opportunities for women.”

“Part of my masters at Griffith involved developing a multicultural, multi-lingual, capacity-scalable sports commentary system. Such a system has tremendous overall applications in the region, but especially for women.”

Commentators on the air in Papua New Guinea

On the air in Papua New Guinea

According to the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Audrey Azoulay, only four per cent of sports media content in the Asia-Pacific is dedicated to women’s sport. Only 12 per cent of all sports news is presented by women.

The WINS system is also seeking to improve those numbers and increase engagement and opportunities across the region.

“I would love to see the ongoing rise of highly trained, highly skilled women commentators working in the popular and emerging sports in the region,” says Aaron.

“Furthermore, you don’t need much to mount a broadcast these days and so, with radio being such a brilliant means of communication, it can provide a vital community service over a large area as an adjunct to any sports coverage.

“For example, during breaks in play, the broadcaster can alert listeners to community events, health and medical updates, and general information. It can bring people together.”