Australia and New Zealand’s successful FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 bid was assisted by an unassuming Griffith University human rights defender.
Professor Susan Harris Rimmer from the Law Futures Centre received the call up from Football Federation Australia and New Zealand Football for a human rights game plan after consulting on the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
“This is the first time FIFA has requested an independent human rights assessment for a Women’s World Cup bid and as far as I can tell the first one to be written by a woman focused on women’s issues,” she said.
Professor Harris Rimmer recommended organisers minimise their environmental and economic impact on host cities and to mitigate homophobic, racist or discriminatory chants in stadiums and social media directed at players.
She also encouraged framing the Women’s World Cup as an important contribution to recognising women’s right and ability to participate in all forms of public life.
“Australians and New Zealanders identify strongly with sports and many of our heroes are athletes. This isn’t just any sporting event, it’s a moment for recognising women at the top of their game and celebrating them as champions.
“Australians and New Zealanders identify strongly with sports and many of our heroes are athletes. This isn’t just any sporting event, it’s a moment for recognising women at the top of their game and celebrating them as champions.”
“Women can be champions. It sends a very strong message to young girls and women that they can be more than just supporters and facilitators of elite sports. There is a place for them on the field.”
Professor Harris Rimmer sees this as an opportunity for Australia and New Zealand to become leaders in advancing women’s sport and build on their shared legacy as pioneers in women’s rights.
“There are still major issues around funding women’s sports and access to sports equipment, training and infrastructure that male athletes take for granted.
“Women are also precarious players in the business of sport, their spots aren’t guaranteed despite capably proving themselves often with much less.”
When the Women’s World Cup rolls around in three years, Professor Harris Rimmer said the event’s success should not be measured purely in economic benefits but in how it inspires people.
“The world is so ready for this event, it could be something really special as the world needs a bright moment, something hopeful, shiny, good and which lifts everyone’s spirits.”
The Independent Human Rights Context Assessment Australia and New Zealand report is available online.