The Darebin Women’s Sports Club has cemented its place in the history of women’s sport in Australia. From humble beginnings, the Falcons have built a community, a family, a home. The success of the AFLW, the Matildas and the Australian Women’s Cricket team has thrown the spotlight onto women’s sport and the Falcons are well placed to provide pathways and opportunities for women and girls to play those sports.
Through the Club’s partnership with the local community and with Darebin Council, and thanks to the work the club has undertaken to build and develop senior and junior pathways, Darebin are in an enviable position. However, much like the journey the club has taken to get where they are today, the road ahead will not be easy.
“We are up against it,” said former president Julia Chiera. “But all our strengths are still there… and I think that they are still really relevant in this environment. And you see what happened with Richmond and their VFLW program just dropping it like flies… with what happened with COVID and AFLW that the league could just so easily call off a season and not give anyone a premiership and then move mountains to get a men’s competition up and running…. I think those are pretty powerful messages that have been sent to women about what’s really thought of them and by the powers that be. And we don’t send those types of messages. Our core business is providing opportunities for women and girls, and it hasn’t changed.”
The professionalisation of women’s Aussie rules football has been a double edged sword for the Falcons. While it has raised the standard of the game it has also meant that the Falcons, a standalone club, are competing with financially powerful AFL clubs. It’s a change which has impacted the club’s ability to attract players. But the Falcons have experienced rebuild phases before. They know they have the resilience and culture to do it again and continue to forge their own path as a standalone community club in the elite women’s Aussie rules competition in the state.
It’s not just the elite opportunities that Darebin is nurturing. From auskick to masters, the Falcons offer a pathway for women and girls. A pathway where women and girls are the priority, where they are front and centre.
The burgeoning soccer program at the Falcons continues to be a place for women and girls of all ages and abilities to be a part of a team. The Falcons are also developing more opportunities for women and girls in other aspects of the game including refereeing, coaching and sports administration.
With the return of the senior women’s cricket program and the development of the junior program, cricket is the next exciting opportunity for serious growth in participation.
Resilient. Inclusive. Bold. Fair but fearless. Proudly feminist. These are the kinds of values that are embedded into the fabric of the Falcons. They’re the kind of things that determine who the club is, and what they stand for. They were instilled in the club from its very beginning when women like Sal Rees and Colleen Vale and Fiona Macauley picked up a football and said ‘why not?’. Those same values have been nurtured by countless women over three decades that have seen and felt the worth of a space run by women and for women.
“The building blocks came from those women in 1990, who said, ‘we don’t want to stay in a men’s club’, and it would have been easier to stay in a men’s club… That would have been the easy option,” Fiona McCaulay said. “But this group of women said, ‘No, we want something better than that. We want our own club, our own autonomy, we don’t want men around giving us shit’… all the kind of hassles that we got back then. And they had to put in submissions to the council, they had to draw up a constitution. We had to do all this work. So the fact that they did that, built the building blocks for what the Darebin Falcons became, which is [a] super successful women’s club.”
Darebin Women’s Sport Club didn’t just happen. It evolved as the women within it found new ways to bring others in and to keep those already there a part of the nest. It expanded to welcome more people in all the while paying tribute to those that have come before. The Falcons continue to be a club built by women and run by women.
“[The Falcons] put women first. And that’s sadly, that’s not the case in a lot of industries, and in a lot of places, that’s not the case. It’s run by women. Women are the leaders of the club,” Jane Lange said. “It tells our young people that you are important, if you’re a young woman, that you are important and that you deserve as much opportunity as the person next to you who might happen to be male… It’s important. And it’s important that Darebin is always there doing that.”