The Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia has increased its female membership by more than 10 per cent in the 2019 calendar year. Last year, membership grew to the association’s highest number of female members thanks to initiatives at the state and national level.
SSAA’s national coaching and membership development manager and Australian Women’s Shooter editor, Gemma Dunn, said the increase in members was owed to several factors.
“We’re approaching membership development in a couple of different ways,” Gemma said.
One of the ways, was a 12-month trial for a new type of try-shooting day in metropolitan and regional Victoria that ran last year.
The aim was for the clubs and ranges to be better equipped in handling newcomers, and building a better sense of inclusivity and community even if someone has never picked up a firearm before.
“We’re working with clubs to help them develop plans to increase membership and get a lot more ladies in the door,” Gemma said.
“We find a lot of women respond positively to a sense of community.”
The program has been so successful that SSAA Victoria has decided to implement its own version as a permanent fixture for 2020. The Women on Target events will kick off at the end of March at SSAA’s Eagle Park Range in Little River.
SSAA Victorian director and SSAA Wodonga president, Josh Knight, said they’ve introduced many initiatives to encourage more novice shooters to attend ranges.
“We have made a nerf target range for the younger kids manned by our volunteers and we are in the process of developing an archery section for [younger] kids and parents to have fun together,” Josh said.
“We have found the best way to encourage ladies, juniors and new shooters is to have a welcoming and positive environment for them to learn in and this encourages them to bring others as well.
“We also conduct an annual school shooting competition and work with a local biathlon club.”
Gemma said it’s evidence SSAA’s initiative has been successful so far.
“This is what we want to happen and it shows the need for programs like this,” she said.
As well as the try-shooting events, ranges are also holding occasions for experienced shooters.
The Women of Shooting event at The Outpost Arms and Munitions in Queensland’s Rockhampton is marking International Women’s Day with a two-day charity affair celebrating women in shooting—including Olympians and world champions.
But it’s not just women the association is targeting.
SSAA National has also been developing a coaching accreditation to help clubs improve the experience for new members and potential shooters.
“We’re not just looking for women to try shooting but juniors as well, and really anyone who is interested in the sport,” Gemma said.
Gemma said the accreditation was just another way to build the number of shooters in Australia.
“We’re trying to find a better way to appeal to all types of potential members, including women, men and juniors,” she said.
“This isn’t to separate women from the men but to encourage more women to participate.
“Women are an untapped resource; they only make up 10 per cent of the membership so we’re just trying to find a way to be more inclusive for all people.”
SSAA National President, Geoff Jones, said the association is proud to be leading the way for women in what has historically been seen as a ‘male dominated sport’.
“The success of the many SSAA programs and initiatives for women throughout Australia is evidenced by the significant growth in female membership and active participation in all aspects of our great sport and the leadership roles that women are now sharing,” Geoff said.
“SSAA not only talks about equality, we make it happen.”