Posted on July 22 2019
Eleni Glouftsis made history at the age of 25 – by becoming the first woman to officiate Australian Football League (AFL) games as a field umpire. Her tenacity and commitment to overcoming barriers have enabled her to smash through this glass ceiling and redefine the role of women in sport.
The following is a guest post from Eleni Glouftsis - 2019 Australian of the Year- read about Eleni here
Growing up next door to an Australian Rules football oval instilled a passion in me for the game of AFL. As a young girl I was welcomed into an encouraging and supportive community umpiring group where I developed skills in communication, teamwork, leadership, confidence and have built lasting friendships. To my umpiring group it didn’t matter that I was a girl or that I had a Greek name, they were only interested in my love of footy and our shared passion for umpiring. Being one of the few females that has followed this pathway, I have faced and still face challenges from players and spectators about my gender affecting my ability to be an umpire at the top level. I have been called names and been put down by people who do not know me, rather the idea of what I was doing as it was not the 'norm', not traditional in a very traditional game. My network of my family, friends, coaches and fellow umpires always provided encouragement and support which gave me the confidence to continue to strive for my dream even when it seemed impossible. I saw many young girls come and go through my junior years and this always bothered me. I don’t want young girls, or boys, to face the hurdles I had to face to pursue my dream. Why couldn’t anyone, female or male, be an AFL umpire? When Chelsea Roffey debuted as an AFL goal umpire it spurred me on to continue working towards this goal.
I want to live in a country, in a world, where our gender, background or our differences do not define the limits of our capabilities; rather they are celebrated. I want to live in a world where anyone can be anything they want to be. When I finally achieved my goal of field umpiring an AFL match, I wanted to use this platform to demonstrate to others that no one else can set your limits but yourself. With the right support network, hard work and determination you can achieve anything.
Australian Rules Football is a game for all Australians. Whether you play, watch or officiate it is a game for everyone; no matter if you were born in Australia or somewhere else, everyone can share a passion for footy and it is a game that brings communities together.
We need to encourage our fellow Australians to be welcoming, supportive and encouraging of one another and in particular our differences, because as individuals develop and grow, we in turn progress as a nation.
I hope to be a model for young girls with respect to how you can harness support to excel and change existing structures to increase and enhance opportunities.
As the only female in a traditionally male-dominated environment, I became accustomed to being seen as different. Through my achievements I hope to inspire young boys and girls to follow their dreams, to believe that they can be anything they want to be, regardless of what has been done before. I hope to help change the feeling of being different from being a negative to something that is sought out, supported and celebrated.
I am very proud of my achievement in sport and, as the first female to have reached the pinnacle of field umpiring in AFL, our own great Australian game, I have hopefully assisted in paving the way and empowering other girls and females, and indeed all young Australians, to pursue and realise dreams and aspirations in whichever field or endeavour they choose.
Do you know an extraordinary Australian making our country a better place? It's up to you. Be Great and Nominate someone in the Australian of the Year Awards today. Go to australianoftheyear.org.au Nominations close 31st July 2019.