July 27, 2020

Organising the final Year 12 students versus teachers sports match at Loreto Kirribilli was ex-student Jane Fernandez’s (’91) first step towards leading the winning bid team for the FIFA Women’s World Cup TM in 2023 and helping to drive gender equality in sport.

The former Loreto Kirribilli student always demonstrated excellent management skills and a flair for delivering successful events. Jane, who attended Loreto Kirribilli from 1984 to 1991, said, “I always played a lot of sport and we always had great fun in our PE classes. I played team sports and leading and building teams is something that I loved.”

She was appointed Head of Sport Council and relished the role. Her first major sporting event was the Year 12 students versus teachers match in what was traditionally a netball game but the chosen sport required a revamp as the usual match venue was unavailable.

“The tennis courts were being renovated so I organised a volleyball match in the Quad. We even had a trophy made out of clay and if I remember correctly the students won,” she laughs.

Jane, the middle of three sisters who all attended Loreto Kirribilli, loves the sense of community and belonging created by being part of a team sport and attending a sporting event.

“There is something really special about going to a major sporting event where people are bound by their passion for the game. Sport is about community, connection and belonging and it brings people together from all walks of life,” she adds.

She also believes the influence of sport extends much further than simply creating a common bond.

“Sport can be used as a platform to bring about social change.”

One such issue is gender equality and Jane is proud of the fact that the Football Federation Australia (FFA) achieved equal pay for the Senior Men’s and Women’s teams last year. Her wish is for this to extend through all aspects of society and she believes the Women’s World Cup is another step in the right direction.

“Watching female athletes compete at the pinnacle of their sport will have a significant impact on the next generation of boys and girls. It is a social game changer,” she enthuses.

Jane believes the influence of strong female role models and the belief that women can achieve anything, were positive messages she took from her time at Loreto Kirribilli and says Principal Sister Margaret Honner IBVM epitomised this sentiment.

“These strong female leaders instilled a sense of self belief, the importance of education and a thirst for knowledge. When I think of the Mary Ward quote, ‘Women in time to come will do much,’ it’s great to see what’s happening in women’s sport and in society as a whole.”

Jane reflects on her schooldays, “I am so lucky to have been educated in an environment that was so supportive and with the belief that everyone has gifts, where the focus was on developing the whole human. Some people were more focused on the arts or on curriculum but there was the belief that you could achieve anything if you put your mind to it and worked hard. But what you achieved had to be greater than yourself.”

She is now looking forward to the FIFA Women’s World CupTM and the organisation needed to host what is the second largest football tournament in the world, projected to generate $AU500 million in social and economic benefits. The FFA will also be developing a leadership program for women across the Asia-Pacific region with the goal to make football the sport of choice for women and girls on and off the pitch.

The development of women in sport, creating a platform for gender equality and promoting Australia on the global sporting stage certainly seem to qualify as making a difference.