World champion cliff-diver Rhiannon Iffland, Olympic gold medallist Kerri Pottharst and Australian netball representative Sam Poolman are set to headline a Hunter-first festival next month celebrating women and girls in sport.
The inaugural Lake Mac Women's Sport Festival will encourage female sports participation, provide support and pathways for up-and-coming athletes, and explore how to grow and nurture women's sport in a rapidly changing society.
The March 11-13 festival will include a combination of talks, symposiums and hands-on activities for girls and women of all ages.
Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said four key themes would underpin the weekend: empowerment and celebration, advocacy and power, athletic excellence, and community and support.
"Looking at recent events, from Ash Barty's historic Australian Open victory to the Ashes win by the Australian women's cricket team, it's clear that women's sport has never been stronger in our country," she said.
"However, there is still much we can do to break down the barriers, encourage more females to get involved and really champion women in the sporting arena."
Four-time world champion cliff-diver Iffland will also return to her home town for the festival, joining a discussion on women in sport.
Pottharst, a pioneer of women's sport in Australia who won gold on the sands of Bondi Beach at the 2000 Olympics, will help launch the weekend at a March 11 breakfast at Warners Bay Theatre, talking about her experience as an elite female athlete.
Locally born and bred Poolman, who represented Australia at under-17, under-19 and under-21 levels, will take part in a March 12 symposium at Charlestown Leagues Club, joining other sportswomen, sports administrators and industry experts to tackle some of the key issues facing women in Australian sport.
Poolman said the festival was a "fantastic opportunity to connect with and inspire the local community".
"This is an opportunity to learn and be empowered by athletes and successful businesswomen," she said.
A Friday symposium at Central Charlestown Leagues will feature University of Newcastle Associate Professor Narelle Eather, a former elite netballer who will talk about the benefits of early participation in sport, and Nutrition Nation founder Rebecca Haslam, who will unpack the importance of health and wellbeing.
Cr Fraser said the festival would also showcase a range of sports matches, workshops, clinics and live entertainment.
"This will be a great opportunity for girls and women to come out and watch or try a variety of sports, without any cost or commitment," she said.
They include free female-only yoga and learn-to-surf sessions at Blacksmiths, soccer and rugby sevens at St Johns Oval, Charlestown, and a netball masterclass at Charlestown netball courts on Sunday with Sam Poolman.
The NSW government contributed $50,000 to the festival through its $500 million Stronger Community Fund.
Other key event partners are Skydive Australia and Charlestown Leagues Club.
Go to lakemac.com.au for more information and to book a seat at the symposiums or Friday breakfast.
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