Australian Athletes Fighting for Fair Funding Plan

On July 2nd, as the Australian National Swim Team was preparing to depart for their pre-Olympic training camp, the high-performance athletes woke up to the surprise of a sizable deposit into each athlete’s bank account. Seems like a positive right? When we first heard about it, we surely thought it was.

Daniel Kowalski, four-time Olympic medalist and most recently the General Manager of the Australian Swimming Association, didn’t see it that way.

“I woke up to a letter on the 2nd of July telling me that SAL (Swimming Australia) had gone and implemented their own model without any consultation or approval from us,” Kowalski explains. “Swimmers just had money here in their bank account, and there’s no conditions around what they received, there’s no real explanation. To be treated that way as a stakeholder it’s poor governance, unconstitutional, and flat-out disrespectful to be honest with you.”

For the last year, the ASA has been collectively-bargaining on behalf of Australian swimmers with their governing body. Kowalski stopped short of labeling it as a union, but said it effectively served the same goals.

“Of the 37 swimmers funded, only 11 will receive above Australia’s minimum wage,” Kowalski shared. “Because we don’t have an NCAA-like system, if you study you’ve got to do it part time. You have to work, and if you work, you can only work 3 or 4 hours a day, a few days a week because it affects the training and recovery techniques.”

It’s not just the money that hurts, Kowalski says. “Our goal is not just to get a fair stake for our athletes, but we also hope to provide training programs and act as an educational body to our athletes as well. With the way things have played out, we just aren’t able to provide those services to our athletes.”

This includes presenting a Transitional program to help athletes successfully move from competition to whatever comes after that: be it within the sport or outside of it.

This is all not a big cash-grab by the swimmers, though. While the money is a portion of it, the ASA’s ultimate goal is to grow the sport. They foresee the ability to top the Olympic swimming medal table in 2016, but only with support. That means keeping athletes in swimming longer, increasing overall participation numbers to get a bigger portion of the government sports funding available, and providing resources and incentives for top athletes to make more sport-promoting appearances.

Swimming Australia is in a different place than what we might see coming from USA Swimming, in that Swimming Australia receives huge amounts of government funding (USA Swimming is largely responsible for his own funding).

What it comes down to is that through the funding programs set up by Swimming Australia, only two athletes in 2011 earned more than the Federal minimum wage. For all of the struggles of national team swimmers in the US to earn funding, it’s nothing compared to what the Aussies are seeing.

Most of all, the athletes want a voice. They are the center of the sport, and Kowalski finds it unfair that the governing body interrupted good-faith negotations and discussions by making a unilateral decision on how to distribute available funding.

As for the path forward, Swimming Australia has said that they won’t discuss the matter any further until after the Paralympic Games, which wrap up next week.

 The full Swimming Australia High Performance funding model for 2012-2013 can be seen here.

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14 Comments on "Australian Athletes Fighting for Fair Funding Plan"

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Bwahmbulance !!!

This is just the Swimming body’s extra funding. Looks like they will have a surplus !

The 2012 team had about 15 serious athletes & 30 vacationers. Hey swimmers -when the results come we Australian taxpayers may reward you .

I want my money to go to successful positive sports persons. Sally Pearson is a tiny white girl who took on the might of the American black hurdlers & won. Brittany Broben at 16 beat everyone up there on 10m but one Chinese girl.

You are only as good a your last race & if that was london 7 no medal or even a final -go 7 earn a living elsewhere.

So Broben won a silver? that was a good enough result. 6 silver from the swimmers wasn’t? the swimmers have to train as hard as any athlete in the world, if not harder. usually 2hrs in the morning and 2hrs at night 6 days a week. plus whatever gym and recovery programs they need to undertake. the issue is that they have no time to earn any money to live. unfortunately the results simply cannot come without the funding. besides that, the crux of the matter is that the majority of australian swimmings money is being rolled into the executives and not the swimmers. why should these people be getting the majority of the funding when it is the athletes… Read more »
Yes I agree about the executive salaries & deals but that is the nature of big time sport mix with federal government /the ASC/ the AOC / multi media. However the facts are that the 2012 team was a failure. The majority of that team should retire & look at other ventures. The men’s team have severely underperformed internationally (as judged even by their mostly lame domestic times ) since Pan Pacs 2010. I simply don’t believe the serial excuses . They lack the sports psychology of 16 year old Brittany Broben who was accepted the challenge & performed.. ditto Melissa Wu who just missed a bronze. It is not the medal it s the quality of effort. No one… Read more »

…Why’sit always gottabe about BLACK people?…

The women’s 100 hurdles has been the domain of American & some Caribbean black girls for the last 20 years. That is one sentence . the other race mentioned was Chinese but not because it is a race but a highly organized national training set up.

when a white man wins the 100 run & a black man the 50 free it IS a big thing. It is part of the sports dynamics & challenge.

Sorry, next time I will type [JOKING] after my statement… Must not have access to any American TV or comedy movies over the last couple decades?

Erik – i just responded to what you wrote.

“I was just joking ” is the weasel defence when you were clearly attacking my comment .

I know the race card well enough -don’t try & lay it with me.

Seriously, chill out. I would hope my obvious misuse of the English language would have given it a way and explaining a joke to a humorless person is something I felt obligated to do. Unless you have aspergers, then I’m sorry.

I don’t care, you don’t have to tell me what ethnicity you are or that you have tons of black friends. You got all pissy about something and told people you don’t know and a circumstance you know even less about (see Scott’s post)

Scott Spranklin
Kudos James JG- why was the team a failure? based on what, the past? look at worlds 11 and then look at London 12… what was the difference in the medal tally? 1? The sport, males obviously, are not performing.. so as a typical Australian you hurl abuse. thats the problem, tall poppy…how about you offer something positive.. suggest ways to solve the problem, instead of doing what you are doing… The other aussie athletes you mention, are amazing, but this is a swimming site.. before you go on talking about something you know nothing about, go to a diving or T&F site and comment about those sports there. Just to remind you- the swimmers are negotiating for a fair… Read more »

As an Australian -of no particular ethnicity Erik – I think you will find my attitude is representative.

That the team complained very publicly about getting $10,000 put into their bank account is a disgrace. They & Kowalski brought it out into the public domain & we are not impressed.

Australia is a “right to work ‘ nation -a la Southern USA . You do not have to join & union & have some power hungry honcho speak/negotiate for you. If they disagree with this 10,000 give it back.

If they accept it -then stfu.


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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