Victorians short-changed in recreation spending

24 Feb 2017

The nation's most popular recreation is not getting the funding it deserves.

What are we talking about?

Walking of course.

Over 42% of Australian adults, or more than 8 million people, walk for recreation at least once a year. In addition, 5.4% go bushwalking. By comparison, the next highest participation is ‘fitness/gym’ at 32.1% and no other activity exceeds 16%.

But that popularity is not translating to funding. In the current financial year, the Victorian Government has allocated $46.4 million to sport and recreation, but the proportion of that funding allocated to walking appears to be minimal.

In a submission to the Sport and Recreation Victoria (SRV) strategic planning process, Victoria Walks has made the case for more funding for walking. 

Walking meets many of the strategic objectives for sport and recreation set out in the SRV Discussion Paper, which seeks to expand participation in sport and active recreation:

  • Walking is particularly popular amongst women, who are less likely than men to participate in sport. More than half of Australian women walk for recreation at least once a year.
  • Walking is especially important for older people, who don't tend to participate in sport.  And we have a rapidly ageing population - by 2051 the number of Victorians aged 65+ is expected to be almost three times what it was in 2011.
  •  Walking is flexible, easy and comparatively attractive to people who are otherwise inactive, or unable to participate in organised sport.

The discussion Paper laments that it is difficult for the Government to support unorganised, individual activities like walking compared to organised sports. We argue that it's actually not that different to funding sports. There is an opportunity to promote walking by collaborating with existing organisations with expertise in this area, such as Victoria Walks, Bushwalking Victoria and the Heart Foundation. The Government could provide greater support for Victoria Walks work to promote walking through our very popular Walking Maps and with our 43,000 highly engaged Facebook followers.

Our submission also argues the Government should:

  • Assist councils in providing walking paths for recreation and supporting facilities such as lighting, toilets and seats.
  • Support recognition of the recreation importance of walking in transport and urban planning decision making.

Let's hope walking's role as the most popular sport or recreation will be recognised in the future.

Check out the submission for more on this issue.