Griffith University’s Women in Sports Strategy continues to build momentum as we celebrate two powerhouse female sports leaders this International Women’s Day.

Griffith Sports College Manager Naomi McCarthy OAM

Griffith Sports College Manager and Women in Sports Strategy lead Naomi McCarthy OAM

Decades in competition, coaching and corporate circles make both Griffith Sports College Manager Naomi McCarthy OAM and Griffith High Performance Swim Coach Janelle Pallister OLY privy to the progress made, and challenges ahead, for women in sport.

As a professional water-polo player Naomi McCarthy has competed in two Olympic Games, winning gold at Sydney’s 2000 Games and captaining the 2004 Olympic team in Athens.

Nonetheless, it was her role in campaigning for women’s water polo to be included in the Olympics that she’s most proud of.

“Women’s water polo wasn’t an event at the Olympics until 2000, whilst men’s water polo had been competing for 100 years at the Games,” she said.

“We are seeing this discrimination much less these days, the focus now being access to the same resources, coaching, facilities, media coverage and funding for female athletes.”

Last year spotlighted the promise of success and possibility when investment is made in women’s sports.

The on-field heroics from The Matildas, which includes Griffith alumni Hayley Rasso, Clare Polkinghorne, Elise Kellond-Knight and Tameka Yallop, amassed a new generation of fans across the country, drew in tens of millions of viewers, and was a catalyst for the 300 per cent increase in revenue from elite women’s sports.

Naomi McCarthy said it’s “very rewarding” to see athletes succeed in both study and sport, pictured here National record holder and Bachelor of Software Engineering student, Torrie Lewis.

As well as Director of Queensland Rugby League, Naomi McCarthy now channels her passion for sports into nurturing next generation, tertiary-educated athletes at Griffith, and leading the Women in Sports Strategy’s multitude advancements.

“We have a large number of very talented elite female athletes including the likes of Jess Fox, Emma McKeon and Madi de Rozario amongst many, many more,” she said.

“We’ve also been offering the Women in Sport MBA scholarship to some incredibly skilled women over the past 3 years, having just had our inaugural recipient, Kim Crane, announced as the incoming Paddle Australia CEO.

“There was a real opportunity to leverage our strength in elite female athletes, along with known strengths in women in sport research areas to hopefully impact sport and improve the situation for women involved in all spheres of sport.”

Janelle Pallister’s swimming career includes three Commonwealth Games medals, Australian records, and representing Australia at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988.

“Something I remember being taught as a female athlete was ‘make sure you appreciate every opportunity you get’, which I did,” the freestyle champion said.

“I still teach this but now I tell young athletes: appreciate the opportunities you get, but also know your worth.”

Years on, she stands alongside renowned Michael Bohl as Head Performance Co-Coach for Swimming Australia’s elite squad, which includes her daughter – world record holder, Paris Olympics hopeful and Bachelor of Laws student Lani Pallister.

“I remember watching Julie Dyring when I was 12 years old and thinking ‘wow’; she was one of the only females that I remember seeing on deck,” Ms Pallister said.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with some wonderful women outside pool deck including

Janelle Pallister said men and women can complement eachother in leadership roles.

the likes of Belinda Clark, Rachel Vickery, Michelle De Highden, Melanie Marshall, Tracey Menzies, and Naomi McCarthy.”

As a member of a High-Performance Women’s Coaching group, and the program ‘Preparation for Paris’ which includes 52 female coaches from around the world, Ms Pallister has recognised a tidal shift in the representation of female coaches and effects of championing one another.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge female coaches are not token coaches on teams; we have value and we add value.”

The Commonwealth gold medalist said leadership should depend less on gender and more on qualities such as good communication, vision, integrity, empathy, resilience, accountability, empowerment, continuous learning, and emotional intelligence.

“Why can’t women have all of this? The answer is we do. We just need the opportunity,” she said.

Under the Women in Sport Strategy, Griffith and its valued partners are driving advancement in elite athlete support, research around women in sport, growth in education and leadership opportunities for women, all while catalysing positive social and community change.

Naomi McCarthy will be presenting at the Women in Sport Congress in Sydney this Friday, as Griffith Gold Coast hosts eminent university leaders offering reflections on investment in women to accelerate progress, available to livestream here.


10: Reduced Inequalities
UN Sustainable Development Goals 10: Reduced Inequalities

17: Partnerships for the Goals
UN Sustainable Development Goals 17: Partnerships for the Goals