Two years ago, she didn’t know how to skateboard – but now Fiona is a skateboarder and a skatepark coordinator and advocate for gender equality in skate. In November, Fiona was awarded the Local Champion for Gender Equality Award from Knox Pledge for her outstanding work with the Girls Skate Clinics.
Fiona’s journey shows her unwavering commitment and passion for her work and community.
“I’ve never been good at sitting still and doing nothing,” She laughed.
In 2017 she started taking her then 15-year-old son to the Knox Skate and BMX Park managed by the YMCA on behalf of Knox City Council every weekend. She was in awe of the skateboarders, who to her seemed like gymnasts and dancers: poised and athletic.
When skate lessons were offered, she immediately lined up and quickly fell in love with skate and the community she found. Shortly after she became a regular volunteer, starting with cooking snags at events, which led her to become an employee and then the skatepark coordinator less than six months later.
“I went from volunteer, to boss, in a matter of months.”
“For me, skateboarding is freedom. It makes you feel fantastic when you’re doing it. It’s not cleaning, or bills. It’s not just skateboarding. It’s the community,” Fiona said.
Fiona’s dedication and passion for this community, especially the girl skate community, goes above and beyond. Every month, she runs a Girls Skate Clinic, focused on providing a safe and supportive environment for children and young women.
In 2017 these clinics attracted 342 female participants across the year. Last year, under Fiona’s management, there were 1,963 female skaters, a growth of 470%. Fiona says that having a female skate manager helps women feel more comfortable at the park.
But providing a safe space is not to be underestimated as the reported rates of family violence in Melbourne’s South East’s family violence is the highest it has been for more than 20 years.
Fiona also said that the clinics are essential to addressing these social issues and also shifting perceptions about male-dominated sport.
“It empowers girls. It gives them something to focus on... We like to think we’re a modern society, but there’s still many boys clubs in sports. With girls skateboarding, they will be valued for their skills, just like men are. It helps females feel valued and strong.”
Fiona said that even though skateboarding is becoming more widely accepted – and research from the Australian Sports Commission shows that it is on track to be the second most popular sport in Australia by 2020 - it still is a place for people on the outer, who don’t seem to fit in anywhere else whether due to physical, social or intellectual ability.
“Some people do not fit into team sports. Here they can go at their own pace and skate is perfect for that,” she said.
Fiona has big plans, with extensive renovations down the track to help make the park a more welcoming place for the community. But the current focus is the upcoming Australia Day skate competition, a family-friendly day with local bands, a free sausage sizzle and a whole heap of ollies.
“I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special. I’m just doing what I love,” she said.