By undertaking a gender impact assessment on its Armstrong Creek Playground, Geelong City Council challenged their gendered assumptions about who uses mountain biking facilities and discovered a gap in their user data. This prompted improvements to the way information is collected so that services and facilities better meet the needs of the community.
Council began by applying a gender lens to the mountain bike track, amphitheatre, natural play area and half basketball court. Council focused specifically on the mountain bike track in the first instance, because the initial assumption was that girls would be less interested in using it, and the facility would benefit boys more than girls.
To find out if this was the case at Armstrong Park Playground, Council started their gender impact assessment by considering what kinds of data was available to them. As Council did not collect data on who used its open spaces, such as parks and mountain bike tracks, they consulted data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Unfortunately, the ABS data did not break down into the different categories of cycling, and while it included some gender-disaggregated statistics, it did not include gender diverse and LGBTIQ+ people.
Next, Council undertook a literature review and found that mountain biking is more popular with girls than they thought. They consulted with local mountain biking organisations to discuss membership, types of events and participation rates. It became clear that boys and girls participate equally in mountain biking activities and competitions up to the age of approximately 13. It is not until then that participation drops off dramatically for girls and remains unequal amongst adults, due to both social and structural gender stereotypes.
The most significant learning Council obtained through this gender impact assessment was the need to improve its capacity to collect and store gender-disaggregated user data across services and facilities, including open spaces. Without adequate data, officers could fall into unconscious bias traps with their assumptions.
This learning will help Geelong City Council to consider gender and other intersectional factors when designing future open spaces. Geelong City Council is currently participating in the Your Ground project in partnership with Monash University’s XYX lab, CrowdSpot and 22 other Local Governments as well as updating open space standards to further progress their work in gender-sensitive open space planning.