As the Federal Sports Minister and a keen shooter myself, I am very much looking forward to watching our 28 athletes representing shooting sports at the upcoming Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. There has never been a more important time to draw attention to our sport, and to support our athletes loudly and proudly.
We have four defending Commonwealth Games champions to cheer on in our shooting team. With ages of the team ranging from 15 to 58, our team takes in not only up and comers, but also maturity and experience. There aren’t many international sports comprising such a wide spectrum of ages – proof that anyone can enjoy and excel at shooting when given the right opportunities.
As we all know, shooting is an enjoyable, family friendly sport – which is why there are almost one million licenced sporting shooters in this country. It is a sport that requires intense concentration, steady nerves and absolute precision.
We are at a cross-roads in Australia when it comes to the future of sports shooting. Too many Australians aren’t aware that the changes being demanded to firearms laws also impact our internationally competitive athletes. There is an unfortunate separation between how many Australians see our sports shooting stars on the television screen, and how they see the average licensed firearms owner.
The Commonwealth Games is an enormous opportunity to change those attitudes and promote the environmental, economic and social benefits of shooting to the wider community.
We all know televised sport is a ratings winner in Australia, and millions of everyday Australians will tune in this year to see our athletes compete on the Gold Coast. I firmly believe we should be drawing more attention to the achievements of our Commonwealth Games shooting team. By encouraging more Australians to watch and cheer on our shooters, we can begin to address the perceptions around our sport and show the community what we know it is to be – a gripping and highly disciplined competition.
And if we are to remain competitive on the international stage, we must promote our shooters as representatives of who we are and what we do. In my capacity as the Federal Sports Minister, I want to ensure there is a pipeline towards elite participation at local shooting clubs across Australia.
Three years ago, I began the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting group to promote shooting sports to politicians and the media in Canberra. Our group holds regular events that showcase what an enjoyable and safe sport shooting is.
We’ve taken pollies to shoot pistols, rifles and shotguns at various ranges – and no one has have ever left without enjoying themselves.
It is small steps like this that help broaden community perceptions of shooting, and the Commonwealth Games can continue that journey.
Senator Bridget McKenzie
Deputy Leader of The Nationals
Federal Minister for Sport