Women’s History Month – Celebrating female sporting icons in Australia

Iconic moments in women’s sports have led the way for women and girls in sport today.

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Photo of the Matildas by Matt King – Getty Images

Celebrated each March, Women’s History Month, recognises the meaningful and diverse impact women have made throughout history. There is no doubt the Matildas created history during their FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 performance. This year for Women’s History month, we reflect on some other iconic moments for women in sport.

First female athletes to represent Australia in the Olympic Games 

Mina Wyllie and Sarah ‘Fanny’ Durack competed in the 100 metre freestyle at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, finishing in first and second place. These trailblazers were inspired to compete in protest to the NSW Amateur Swimming Association's belief that women should not appear in competitions where men were present. Wyllie and Durack’s successful ambition paved the way for future generations of Australian female swimmers. 

Gold medal sprint at Sydney 2000 Olympics

In front of a home crowd of 112,000, Cathy Freeman claimed her first Olympic gold medal in the 400 metre sprint women’s final. Freeman hoped her success would inspire all Aboriginal children and future generations to come. After her outstanding performance, Freeman completed a victory lap with both the Australian and Aboriginal flags to show their equal importance to her. Freeman remains an iconic sporting hero and continues to inspire the Indigenous community through her legacy.

Australia’s Golden Girl

Betty Cuthbert (1938–2017), was the world’s first athlete to win gold in 4 different Olympic track events. She won 100 metres, 200 metres and 4 x 100 metres relay in Melbourne 1956 and 400 metres in Tokyo 1964. Over her career, Cuthbert set 16 world records. Tragically, Cuthbert was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1969. She used her status to raise awareness for the disease, inspiring many Australians.

Australian Netball Diamonds’ honourable success

The Australian Diamonds have a strong history of success since their international netball debut against New Zealand in 1938. The Diamonds are consistently ranked world number one and have empowered girls and young women to see sport as genuine professional pathway. They have claimed:

  • 12 out of 16 World Cup wins 
  • 4 Commonwealth Games gold medals.

Australia will host our fourth Netball World Cup in 2027. The Diamonds will compete as defending champions after their 2023 win in South Africa. 

Shooting hoops across 3 decades

Known as one of Australia’s greatest basketball players of all time, Lauren Jackson’s career is inspiring to female basketball athletes of all ages. 

Jackson claimed 4 Olympic medals (3 silver medals and one bronze) with the Opals and became the first Australian inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. After a successful career in the Women’s Basketball National League (WBNL), Jackson became a 3-time most valuable player of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Here Jackson won 2 championships with the Seattle Storm in 2004 and 2010, playing for the WNBA All Star team. 

Jackson led the Opals to a bronze medal at the 2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup. This was her return to international basketball at the age of 41. With the support of the Australian Government, Jackson and Basketball Australia developed ‘She Hoops', a legacy of the Basketball World Cup. This initiative aims to build pathways and increase participation of women and girls in basketball.

Paralympic race champion

Madison de Rozario’s main mission is to make a difference and be an inspiration for para-athletes of all ages and abilities. Overcoming the barriers of transverse myelitis, de Rozario became the first Australian to win the London Marathon’s elite women’s wheelchair race. She then went on to win her first Paralympic gold medal in the women’s 800 metre T53 at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. de Rozario will strive to defend her gold medal title in the women’s 800 metre T53 at the Paris 2024 Paralympics Games.

Leading into the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Australia is hosting world-class women’s only events. These include the Netball World Cup 2027 and Women’s Rugby World Cup 2029

These are just a few of the historic moments from women’s sport in Australia. What other historical moments will be made through upcoming events the green and gold decade?

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