I'd also like to pay my respects to the traditional owners on the land on which we meet today and pay my respects to their elders past and present.
Australia is a great sport loving nation. We all have memories of growing up playing sport for our local clubs, our school team, and sport particularly for regional Australia – which as Deputy Leader of The Nationals – is incredibly important as a point of social cohesion. It brings whole communities together.
It's part of our identity as a nation and if you wanted to know how Australians feel about fair play and fair sport, you need to look no further than their reaction to certain behaviours of our cricket team over summer. It is who we are. We want to play hard and fast on the court, in the field, in the pool. But Australians want us to be fair.
As Sports Minister I really want to get more Australians more active, more often. Friendly rivalry between clubs and spending the weekend in the car heading off to compete in towns or across the border is all part of growing up in Australia.
Hosting events such as the Olympics in Sydney and more recently the great Comm Games on the Gold Coast gave us a chance to showcase our towns and cities and also the best of our athletes that represent our great nation.
Sport is also a driver of local economies, creating jobs that deliver over 39 billion dollars of economic activity across this country, and employs over 200,000 Australians. This is important work for us. It's not just about gold medals.
We have a long list of Australian sporting heroes from across the generations. There are many examples of classic sporting moments. Cathy Freeman carrying the Olympic torch into the Sydney Olympic games. Ian Thorpe in the Australian relay team smashing those Americans like guitars or indeed Alisa (Camplin-Warner) who won our first female Winter Olympic gold medal in Salt Lake City.
We talk about these moments. We replay them for many years. This is national pride. This is part of our identity as a nation. And a whole new generation are inspired by your achievements. A whole new group of elite sports people are born. Once these people, our elite athletes, hit the national stage they become role models and ambassadors for their individual sports. However, with that comes responsibility and attention that our athletes may not have the tools or experience to deal with. They have been focused for so long on winning and achieving and being their very best as an elite athlete.
I spoke to athletes when I had the chance to go Pyeongchang earlier this year, who were stepping out of competition and straight in front of cameras when they may not have performed at the level that they wanted to personally, or more concerningly where the expectation was, whether it be within their team, their communities, or indeed the nation in the media. And I think we need to look at the expectation that we put on our athletes, what we see as success.
The AIS has led the world in athlete performance for decades and I'm incredibly proud, I think, that the Federal Government continues to back the AIS's contribution in ensuring we maintain ahead of the game. And this next level, this next chapter, if you like, in the AIS's story, in producing world class athletes is a really exciting piece and I'm incredibly excited to see what comes out of your two days here.
I think when we look at stories, not just in medal sports but indeed in professional sports of young athletes who have spent many decades becoming the best they can be and not being prepared for life after sport – there is so much more for the athlete to be developed as a whole athlete and a whole person, not just for that moment of performance, that high performance but for their whole life. And it won't just be the athlete that benefits. That inspiration and motivation that their elite performance delivers us all, hopefully to get off the couch and get out and hit the road or the track, but indeed for all that sport can bring, but I think their capacity then to give back will be the community that benefits from their ongoing engagement and their ongoing inspiration and motivation that they'll be able to deliver.
Today's launch of the new Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement Strategy will ensure our elite athletes continue to thrive both during and after sport. Having people like the calibre of Ian Thorpe here today supporting this initiative, who has lived through the transition to normal life, he and other athletes involved are the people who are best placed to assist.
I want to congratulate the AIS on this initiative. It will play a crucial role in developing our most talented elite athletes while ensuring that we continue to foster the best outcomes for our athletes both during and post their sporting careers. I congratulate all of you on this important summit and I'm really looking forward to hearing about the results of your discussions. Thank you.