AFL announces advisory group to drive outcomes for women and girls

On the eve of national community football competitions beginning, the AFL is pleased to announce the appointment of a Leadership Advisory Group to provide guidance and assist the AFL to deliver on the outcomes set in the Women and Girls Game Development Action Plan, to create equal opportunities for women to play, coach, umpire, officiate, administer, and govern the game. 
The group will focus on the actions as they relate to leadership roles for women in Community Football, a key area of the Women and Girls Action plan, and will help to deliver the AFL’s Women’s Football Vision to strive for equal participation and representation by the end of this decade.
The Leadership Advisory Group will be Co-chaired by AFLW pioneer and women’s sport advocate Professor Susan Alberti AC and AFL EGM Game Development Rob Auld and comprises of: 

  • Professor Susan Alberti AC (Co-Chair)
  • Rob Auld (Co-chair) – AFL EGM Game Development
  • Amber Banfield – WAFC Board Member (WA)
  • Tamara Bardon - Head of HR, BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (QLD)
  • Kerrie Brewer – Hawthorn EGM Development, Infrastructure, and Gov Relations (VIC)
  • Helen Langenberg - Tasmania's Department of State Growth, Sport and Rec (TAS)
  • Meghan McDonald – Geelong Cats AFLW Captain (VIC)
  • Helen Ockerby - Executive director WA Country Football League. Chair of the Kimberley Football Advisory Group (WA)
  • Rebecca Randazzo - Head Coach QAFLW Coorparoo FC (QLD)
  • Ben Scales - CEO Mid Murray Council (SA)
  • Kerry Turner - NSW Office of Sport, Participation and Partnerships (NSW)

The advisory group will support efforts to address the gender balance in leadership in all community football leagues and clubs including NAB AFL Auskick and AFL schools’ programs, as well as in coaching and umpiring. Key outcomes, which the group will support, include: 

  • Collating and sharing case studies of women in leadership positions 
  • Delivering an online “Women in Leadership” series for community football leagues & clubs 
  • Establishing a community network to champion women in leadership 
  • Establishing incentives and/or quotas for women in leadership positions
  • Expanding on established resources inclusive of, but not limited to, the AFLVIC Female charter and National Female Community Guidelines to provide guidelines and checklists for inclusive environments across playing, coaching, umpiring, administration, and volunteering.  
  • Establish a best practice framework for leagues and community clubs to include, advance and increase the visibility of women in leadership within their football communities.

Executive General Manager Game Development Rob Auld said the appointment of the advisory group is another tangible step toward meeting the AFL’s gender equity targets across community football. 
“We are in the first phase of the Women and Girls Action Plan, which has seen the significant investment made by the AFL into community football have an immediate impact on the representation of female leadership in our game,” Mr Auld said.
“We need to provide the best possible environments for women and girls in order to accelerate growth across umpiring, coaching, administering and playing, all supporting our aspiration of equal participation and representation across all levels of community football by 2030.
“We are already seeing tangible results with increases in participation. The AFL offered a grant funding program in Victoria to drive more women and girls teams that resulted in three new competitions, 11 new clubs and more than 900 new women and girls playing our game. 
“Another example is the Coates Talent League’s regional leadership group, which has increased from eight per cent of full-time female staff in 2022, to 48 per cent of leadership roles occupied by females in 2023. 
Co-Chair Professor Susan Alberti AC said the advisory group will work together to help the AFL deliver on their commitment. 
“We want our great game to be the first choice for women and girls, in all areas, from playing, coaching, umpiring and administration – and it’s our role to provide the support and pathways to ensure this happens.”

National Women and Girls Action Plan Lead and industry trailblazer Debbie Lee, said the diverse experience and perspective will give the AFL incredible insight to deliver on such an important program of work. 
“The Leadership Advisory Group brings together a passionate and accomplished group from both within and outside of football, providing a diverse range of experiences and perspectives." Ms Lee said.
“The Women and Girls Action plan is an important piece of work, and we have formed a group committed to deliver on it.”
The appointment of the Women and Girls Game Development Leadership Advisory Board is the most recent development in the AFL’s bid to increase female representation and participation at all levels of the game and follows the $5 million upfront commitment for the next three years, to support the first phase of the action plan. 


The AFL is also providing stakeholders regular updates on the various aspects of the implementation of the Women and Girls Action Plan.  This week AFL GM Umpiring Lisa Lawry, AFL EGM Game Development Rob Auld and AFL EGM Football Andrew Dillion wrote to thousands of community umpires nationally providing further communication updating the work being done to support the umpiring network and more specifically girls and women in umpiring.
A reminder to all umpires that if you see, hear, or experience any type of behaviour that is inappropriate please speak up and report it to us. 
Everyone has the right to work, play and socialise in an environment which is safe and inclusive. In other words, you have the right to be protected from unacceptable conduct whilst participating in football.
If you have experienced any behaviour whilst involved in community football that may be in breach of the National Community Handbook, it can be reported directly through the AFL Integrity Reporting Portal.
That portal can be accessed directly via the AFL Integrity Portal and you will be provided with wellbeing support as required.

  • You can report it anonymously if you feel more comfortable in doing so.
  • Any complaints of inappropriate behaviour will be treated seriously and sensitively and where required investigated thoroughly and in a timely manner. 
  • Reports are dealt with by trained investigators, with the team comprising of a dedicated AFL Integrity unit female member working directly with the national umpiring program who can respond accordingly.
  • Participants that report a complaint through the portal link above will be guided through the process and linked in with appropriate wellbeing and support services.

In addition to the above, there are a number of initiatives at the community, talent and elite levels in progress and planned for 2023, specifically designed to progress the recruitment, retention and development of umpires at all levels.
At Community level

  • We are pleased to advise that we are close to appointing Umpire Recruitment and Retention Leads in every State.
  • Continuation of developing a National Accreditation Framework for all umpires.
  • Kicked off training to support facilitators for in school introduction to umpiring program.
  • The AFL has appointed dedicated Women & Girls Roles in each State who are responsible for the delivery of the AFL’s Women and Girls Action Plan which includes increasing female umpiring numbers and improving umpire association environments including appointment of female umpire coaches.
  • This is supported by the appointment of Australian Football Hall of Famer Debbie Lee to the role of National Women and Girls Action Plan Lead to help drive the implementation of the Women and Girls Action Plan, including supporting more women and girls into umpiring and working to ensure umpire associations and clubs provide a safe physical and cultural environment. 
  • Increased our investment and resources around community umpiring by appointing Umpire Recruitment, Retention and Development Leads in each States allowing a significantly greater focus on the experiences of community umpires and how we can support community leagues and clubs to recruit, retain and develop umpires nationally. 
  • Increased focus on inclusive environments by piloting in 2023 Inclusive Club training for just over 10% of our Umpire associations with a view to rolling out to all Umpiring clubs. 
  • Continuation of our National female umpiring mentoring program – currently over 150 women invited to be a part of this program.
  • Inclusion and diversity training module developed and launched on the AFL’s Online Learning System for those involved in umpiring.
  • Increased investment of $400,000 dedicated each year over three years to the development of umpire coaches including increasing their skills and ability to create safe and inclusive environments in umpiring clubs.
  • Facility investment in gender neutral umpire changerooms resulting in now being at 52% up from 39% in 2017.
  • Inclusive Umpire Rooms guidelines and Posters released in 2022 to support and educate on fair and inclusive use of shared spaces.
  • The number of women and girls umpiring has increased by 7%, with current registrations 6% compared to this time last year.
  • Umpire Coaches to again be included in the 2023 National She Can Coach program.
  • For all community umpiring integrity reporting portal is available - this is publicized through Play.AFL, Club help, Coach LMS, National Community Policy Handbook
  • Commencement of national umpires survey in 2022 with exit reason question.
  • Included welcoming environment in national umpires survey questionnaire.
  • Mental Health Strategy for 2024 in development with specific focus and action plan for community umpiring.

Elite and Talent Pathway 

  • Lisa Lawry appointed as General Manager Umpiring. Lisa was previously General Manager of People at Essendon Football Club and has a long history of driving cultural change and opportunities for women.
  • Conducted a survey for all state league umpires to understand personal experience to help inform our action plan in supporting all state league Umpires and in particular female umpires.
  • Conducted the first of a series of facilitated training sessions regarding respectful relationships for all state league umpires.
  • Recruited new female liaison officer position to support state league & pathways female umpires.
  • To ensure all State League Umpires feel safe, the AFL has ensured that AFL Security & Integrity Officers are present at all VFL, VFLW games and targeted Coates Boys & Girls games to provide support to umpires & other match day officials.
  • Invested in seven new roles to support the recruitment, development and retention of female umpires in our elite umpiring pathway.
  • Facilitated Female Umpiring Talent Day Pilot, which was attended by 75 community umpires from Victoria, which identified 8 new high potential female umpires.
  • Completed Pre-Season Female Academy Program with 17 high potential female umpires from Victoria (which included the 8 female umpires identified at the Female Talent Day).
  • As a result of the dedicated AFL’s support, 47% of the Pre-Season Female Academy Program were promoted to the AFL’s State League & Pathways Program in 2023.
  • More female umpires were selected for AFLWS7 panel (63% increase), with 46% of goal umpires being female.
  • As a result of the increase in female representation, more female umpires were selected for AFLW S7 finals (8% increase), with 50/50 representation in grand final selection for goal umpires.
  • Have now developed a new umpiring talent framework which is a world leading initiative for officiating. The framework sets out the skills, capabilities, attributes, and experience that an umpire needs at each stage of their development.

>> Read the Women and Girls Game Development Action Plan Phase One Summary

>> Read the profiles of the Women and Girls' Game Development Action Plan Leadership Advisory Group