Real women, real stories: How Merri-bek City Council used This Girl Can – Victoria campaign


There’s no doubt about it: Merri-bek City Council is serious about getting women and girls active in their community. They’ve even gone to the extent of employing a full time Female Sport Participation Officer, whose role is specifically focused on getting females involved in sport.

A 2020 Merri-bek Household Survey (formerly referred to as Moreland Household Survey) revealed that 25% of females in Fawkner believe their lack of fitness or their weight make it difficult to participate in physical activity, they took action. Merri-bek City Council wanted to both challenge and better understand these preconceived ideas about physical activity by collecting real stories of real women being active. They turned to support offered by the This Girl Can – Victoria campaign.

This Girl Can share

To achieve the goal of engaging women in physical activity, Merri-bek City Council have leveraged This Girl Can – Victoria resources and materials in a range of engaging ways.

“We scheduled regular posts on Facebook, sharing ambassador stories with a link to the video story,” said Tamara, Merri-bek City Council’s Female Sport Participation Officer. “We also used the social media tiles to promote the campaign – they were easy to download, save and upload to the various platforms.”

Merri-bek City Council also boosted their efforts by actively sharing the Helping women and girls get active guide.

“We wanted to encourage club committees to look at their club through the eyes of the females in their community – mothers, daughters, sisters, aunties etc,” they said. “We added the guide to our website, along with a link to the This Girl Can – Victoria website.”

Inspiring women to share their stories

In a further effort to help local clubs connect with females in the community, Merri-bek City Council used the This Girl Can – Victoria StoryPod. They set it up at Fawkner Festa – an event designed to help the community learn about the services in their area, including sports clubs and leisure centres.

Women were asked to share their personal fitness stories in a short video recording inside the StoryPod. Many shared their experiences of overcoming fear and uncertainty when it comes to physical activity, but were happy to report they’re currently enjoying a healthy, happy, active life.

The results of a ‘sharing is caring’ approach

About 50% of passersby saw the StoryPod activation and engaged in a conversation about exercise and fitness, with about 20% willing to record their story. Inspiring stories were collected, including Elisa’s and Theresa’s.

Elisa breaks down fitness barriers at the gym

65-year-old Elisa recorded her story about attending the gym for the first time.

“Once I joined the gym I could feel the benefits straight away,” she said. “Not just physical benefits – but benefits in my state of mind.”

She also shared that, “I’m 65 and one of the older people in the classes. I’m aware of that and sometimes feel a bit embarrassed. But the staff at Fawkner Leisure Centre are very understanding. After coming to the gym for quite a few years, I feel physically better and I’m in a much better place now.”

Elisa’s story shares a powerful message that other This Girl Can – Victoria supporters can take away. Being conscious of women’s concerns about age and ability can make a huge difference in their overall experience. Fawkner Leisure Centre treats its members with respect and understanding, which has been a big encouragement for Elisa to keep coming back.

Theresa stays active by dancing for fun

Theresa shared that her main relationship with fitness is through dance. She explained, “In high school there was a lot of pressure to look sexy and dance with boys. That didn’t resonate with me and was really off-putting.”

Now Theresa dances for fun for herself. “I joined a dance troupe called the Real Hot Bitches. The idea is that whatever you lack in technique you make up for in passion. You’re getting fitter and being active but you don’t even realise it because you’re having so much fun! Creating fitness as a fun, social thing first is a great way to make sure I’m always exercising. You focus on having fun and get the fitness as a bonus. It’s all about enjoying yourself.”

Theresa’s story also shares helpful insights for This Girl Can – Victoria supporters. Focusing on fun over fitness performance can encourage women to think about themselves positively, and get active regardless of how they look.

We’ve all got different stories when it comes to fitness. This Girl Can – Victoria research indicates that 52% of Victorian women worry about being judged when exercising, while 41% are too embarrassed or intimidated to get active. Merri-bek City Council successfully opened the conversation about women’s physical activity by:

  • Sharing This Girl Can – Victoria ambassador stories on social media with the #ThisGirlCanVIC hashtag
  • Distributing This Girl Can – Victoria campaign posters, graphics and resources
  • Using the This Girl Can – Victoria StoryPod to collect inspiring videos of women getting active within the local community.

Want more tips on how to encourage women to get active in your community? See our supporter case studies for practical examples of what others have done.