International Women’s Day 2024: Anita Palm – a pioneer on and off the court

International Women’s Day 2024: Anita Palm – a pioneer on and off the court

With an incredible career spanning across numerous sectors of our sport, Volleyball Australia Vice President Anita Palm is a passionate advocate for the female voice.

Friday 8 March marks International Women’s Day, an important opportunity to recognise and reflect on the outstanding impact women have within our communities.

Having started her career as an athlete before transitioning to administrative and governance roles, Palm has a comprehensive and unique understanding of the significant roles women play within Volleyball Australia and the sport as a whole.

“I started playing volleyball when I was in high school as part of the volleyball program at Bundaberg High,” said Palm. “We had an enthusiastic teacher who made it fun to get involved, and I was attracted to the team aspect of the sport straight away.

“I went on to play indoor volleyball while I was at university. Indoor was definitely my focus back then, with beach volleyball only just taking off in Australia, so I was really concentrating on my games and just enjoying my time on the court.

“A driving focus for me was really the sport developing a global presence, and I’ve been consistently involved ever since, to the point that it’s almost difficult for me to separate my career and volleyball itself. 

“I’ve played, I’ve coached and I’ve been on the Volleyball Australia Board, so I’ve definitely made it my life – it’s a beautiful sport to be a part of,” she said.

Having played indoor volleyball for the Queensland Pirates and the women’s Volleyroos as a teenager, Palm made the shift to the beach after moving to Perth.

“It was still a young sport in Australia when I started playing it in the late 80s, but it became a bit of a personal obsession for me, I absolutely loved it,” she said.

“It provided me with so many incredible opportunities, both to play and connect with amazing people. I took part in the first-ever Asian Tour and also in the first ever women’s World Championships event in Spain in 1992 with Jacqui Vukosa. It’s nice to be a part of that history, and to know what was involved, what happened and who was there.

“I started preparing for the Olympics after that. There were no coaches back then, so athletes were not just athletes, but coaches, marketing people and more – we did everything! 

“We put in the work and Australia ended up doing very well at that first Olympics in Atlanta, Kerri Pottharst and Natalie Cook came third and Liane Fenwick and I came seventh.

“I retired from playing after that but continued to work in sport. I actually got a job with the Sydney Olympics, which was such a massive opportunity for me at the time. 

“Those kinds of events are such a great opportunity to accelerate your career, especially for athletes transitioning out of sport, and looking forwards, I really hope that Brisbane 2032 will do what Sydney did for my career, for so many young women.”

Palm is proud of the way in which volleyball has provided opportunities for women within the sport, and is equally proud of the way in which women have led the charge in developing a profile of the sport within the Australian community.

“Beach volleyball has a proud history of championing women in the sport,” she said. “Even way, way back when I started, prizemoney was always equal. It may not have reached the newspapers, but I feel volleyball as a sport has given equal opportunity to women and men in many ways, and that’s an aspect of the sport that I’ve really loved.

“Women have been a shining light in the Australian beach volleyball scene in terms of results and success. A lot of the recognisable names we have in our sport are women, so for the profile of the sport, women have really been our leaders. 

“In an administrative sense, I think Volleyball Australia has also led the way. I was on the Board with several other women for the first time back in 2000 and always felt very safe and included. We’ve had a female voice included in our governance for a really long time, which is something that cannot necessarily be said across other sports.

“We’re not an add-on; we’re part of the DNA of volleyball in Australia, and I think that’s brilliant.”

Having been a part of the sport as both an athlete and a coach from the grassroots level through to the high performance space, Palm admits that while progress has been made, there is still more that can be done to make volleyball an inclusive and welcoming space for women.

“When I was playing the photographers were always looking for certain angles, but now they’re really focused on highlighting the athleticism of the sport,” said Palm. 

“I think that’s changed for the better, and I’m really happy that that’s the case, but as a sport I think we need to even look further so that young women can feel completely comfortable playing the sport.

“We have to be able to cater for everyone, and it’s really great to see that discussion being led by so many incredible young women.

“I think we also still have to make it easier for women to be able to contribute when they finish playing. The additional demands that women take on with children are not always equal to that of men, so if we can work on reducing the barriers that make it systemically difficult for women to become coaches or pursue other roles, I feel that would be a huge benefit.

“Volleyball has led the way in being a very inclusive and equal place in our bubble within society, and although there will always be differences and we’ve still got a ways to go, I think we can be proud to be part of Volleyball Australia in terms of the work that it’s done to promote the equity of women,” Palm finished.

To read more about International Women’s Day, click here.

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