Hannah Britton, Melissa Hale and Lauren Townsend were selected amongst other women, by Sport Australia, to attend a Women Leaders in Sport (WLIS) Program. All three women have and are involved in deaf sports. They completed the program last year.

The program is an Australian Government’s initiative that is managed by Sport Australia in partnership with the Office for Women. It is designed for women who comes from varying sporting career backgrounds, which aim to provide these women with development opportunities, enabling them to reach their full leadership potential.

Eight months since completing the WLIS Program in 2020, Deaf Sports Australia shares an update on these women.

Hannah Britton has a lot of involvement in the deaf community. She also have a strong involvement in sports, especially in swimming. Hannah represented Australia in swimming twice and is a Deaflympian herself. She was also a Team Manager for the Australian Deaf Swimming at the 5th World Deaf Swimming Championships in Brazil. At current, she is the contact person for Deaf Aquatics Australia. Hannah is a Board Member at two deaf organisations. After completing the WLIS Program, Hannah was appointed a Senior Planner for the Complex Support Needs Branch at the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).

Victorian Council of Social Service / Facebook

Melissa, who was heavily involved in Deaf Cricket, founded the Deaf Women’s Cricket within Cricket Australia’s National Cricket Inclusion Championships (NCIC). She is now working full-time as a coordinator in the disability advocacy sector in Victoria. She also studies in the Williamson Leadership Program. Melissa has a passion for disability advocacy, and she likes to see bridges built where barriers once were.

After the completion of the program, Melissa reflected on her existing leadership role and shares what she’s learnt about the real definition of leadership. “Leadership is not a position – it is how you motivate and inspire other people to want to chip in and be a part of seeing something grow. WLIS taught me to step back a bit, hand over the reins to other women and stand alongside them and support them to become leaders themselves, rather than feel like I have to do all the things myself,” said Melissa.

Lauren was a secretary at Deaf Touch Football Australia, and is now working full-time doing two different roles at Deaf Sports Australia; Media & Communication Liaison (national) and Sports Development Officer (NSW). She recalls parts of the WLIS Leadership Workshops that made an impact on her self-discovery. “At the beginning of the program, we were tasked with getting our colleagues to do an evaluation of our role in the environment. As a result, we got very valuable feedbacks because it showed us what we needed to work on. There was also the discussion surrounding listening to people actively. That was a major learning curve for me – I now find myself having improved relationships with people I talk or sign to,” said Lauren.

Sue Cormack, facilitator for the WLIS Program, is confident that Hannah, Melissa and Lauren will come away from the program with valuable information, knowledge and experience to share amongst their peers. “They certainly don’t let being deaf hold them back and [their presence] brought a new experience for many of the participants, of communicating through interpreters. Hannah, Melissa and Lauren are bright, energetic and dedicated leaders who would be an asset in any sport.”

Applications for this year’s WLIS Program have closed but it will reopen again next year. You can visit their website to stay up to date.

Phil Harper
Deaf Sports Australia