My name is Narelle Mewburn. I was born in Box Hill in 1972 and for the last 20 years I’ve lived in East Ivanhoe. I’ve got four boys, aged from 12 to 17 and a half, which has kept me busy in various volunteer roles in the community. As a volunteer, I have been in the Facilities Committee of the East Ivanhoe Primary school for eleven years, and I have been the secretary of the Ivanhoe Football Club for three years.
Professionally, I am an events manager, and for five years now I’ve been working for a not-for-profit organisation coordinating local and national events. The organisation focuses on environmental issues and is mostly volunteer-driven, so I work with a lot of people who give their time to contribute. Today everyone is time-poor, but I find that it really depends on your priorities. Personally, I find that volunteering has been a good way to connect with people and parents of kids from all age groups.
As a child, I lived in East Doncaster, attending primary and secondary school there. I was a normal kid growing up in the eighties and didn’t have the distractions kids have today with social media and mobile phones. Back then we only had three or four channels on TV, and we’d make do. Was it a better life? Maybe it was, I don’t know. It was the only life we knew, and social media and phones is the only life kids know now.
Kids are always chatting on their phones now, but they don’t talk; they prefer to text each other. It seems like they need constant, immediate gratification in everything they do, and they are never willing to wait for things. I think it’s because they have things like social media, where they post something and in seconds they have 50 or 100 Likes, and I think they live their lives based on how many likes they get.
When I look at my kids’ generation, I think about what we’d have done in that situation. At that age we’d go out and meet people at the shopping centre, or we’d go to the movies. And they actually do these things, but they do them in a different way. As parents of teens, we have to respect that this is the era they live in. And we can’t continuously say to them that it isn’t the way we grew up, because of course it isn’t.
As a student, I swam and played netball all year around. I’d have loved to play football, like my twin brother, but that wasn’t possible back then. As kids, my dad would take us to the Footy. He grew up in Brunswick and mum in Moreland, so all our family supports Carlton, including my kids. Back then clubs still played at suburban ovals, often on muddy grounds and with many players that were locals. It was a different atmosphere, and with very different expectations on the players. Today AFL is a big business, players are full-time athletes, and their bodies are completely managed. This is a bit sad, but it’s also a natural evolution for the game.
At the Ivanhoe Football Club we now have four girl teams. We started with a girls’ under 18s team around six years ago, and today we also have teams for under 12s, under 14s and under 16s. We’ve grown every year, and across the whole league we are affiliated with, there’s been massive growth in girls’ football. Boys football is still much larger, but fewer boys are playing now than ten or fifteen years ago, as there are many more demands on their time and more sporting options available.
Girls football is still quite different though, as most have not grown up playing the game; they pick it up as something new, or something to do with their friends, try it for a year or two and then decide it’s no longer for them, whereas boys begin very young and stick with it. Another big difference is in the number of injuries girls suffer, and the very different skill level among the girls; both factors depend a lot on how early girls start playing, and how they learn to handle tackles and falls. We are now getting a group of girls that started young, transitioning into under 16s and 18s, and they play much, much better because of their experience.
Some parents are still hesitant to let their daughters play AFL, as they see it as more “dangerous” than other games, like soccer. Women’s AFL is still in its infancy, but today there is more awareness about what girls can do in football, and there’s so much more exposure in the media. Girls have been playing football for at least twenty years, and while it’s not on a level playing field with men’s football yet, I can see it continuing to grow and hopefully being as popular one day.