The tour will see the Westfield Junior Matildas travel to a number of countries in the Pacific, including Vanuatu, to participate in international friendly matches against counterpart Pacific women’s national teams.
While in the Pacific, the team will support the growth of women’s football and build relationships across the region through the delivery of coaching clinics and community engagement activities, as well as collaborate with Australian High Commissions and Embassies in-country.
FFA Chief Executive Officer David Gallop AM responded to the announcement, saying: “This tour provides us an opportunity to strengthen the relationships we have with our counterpart Member Associations in the Pacific, and continue our efforts in supporting the development of women’s football internationally. We welcome the Australian Government’s support for this initiative.”
Westfield Junior Matildas Head Coach Rae Dower also commented, talking about the benefit to the playing group: “We're very excited today by the announcement of the Prime Minister for the upcoming tour to the Pacific nations for the Westfield Junior Matildas.”
“The tour will represent an excellent opportunity to extend our preparation towards qualification for a place at the 2020 FIFA U17 Women's World Cup. It will also provide a massive educational and cultural opportunity for these young girls from all the participating nations to utilise football as a tool for health, fitness and empowerment.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said the passion for sport remains a strong bond between Australia and Vanuatu.
“This is the first initiative announced as part of our commitment to the Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages Program which will deliver $40 million in grants over five years to support the development of sport throughout the Pacific,” Minister Payne said.
“The Junior Matildas will be our first national football team to tour the region since 2006 and this builds on our efforts to support the extraordinary growth that we have seen in female participation in sport in recent years.
Minister for Sport Bridget McKenzie said that success in women’s sport helps drive improved health and social outcomes.
“Our Matildas squads are a huge source of pride for Australians and we are also supporting female football through a $5 million grant to strengthen the Australian bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup” Minister McKenzie said.
“The success of our women’s sporting teams and athletes are driving big increases in participation, particularly in grassroots sporting organisations and providing positive female role models for Australian women.”
Football Federation Australia’s involvement in the Australia-Pacific Sports Linkages Program continues a longstanding partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) which has seen FFA deliver programs involving more than 30 countries across Asia, the Pacific, Europe and North America.
In the Pacific, FFA works with the Oceania Football Confederation on the Just Play sport for development program, which is funded by the Australian Government’s Pacific Sports Partnerships initiative. Since 2009, the program has seen more than 250,000 children (48% female) aged 6-12 participate in football activities that have been modified to teach lessons about hygiene and sanitation, gender equality, disability inclusion, responses to natural disasters and increase school and community engagement. More than 5,000 volunteers (53% female) have been trained to deliver Just Play sessions across 11 Pacific countries.