Celebrating Diversity in Sport & Society


Kelly Applebee, Diversity Manager at the AFL Players’ Association, speaks to us about raising her daughters and why diversity is important on and off the pitch.

Kelly Applebee, Diversity Manager at the AFL Players’ Association, tells us why diversity is important on and off the pitch, and how she balances sport and career with raising her two daughters. The evolution of women’s sport at an elite level does more than educate girls and young women about the opportunities in sport – it shows them that they can achieve success, whatever career path they choose. We catch up with Kelly Applebee, Diversity Manager at the AFL Players’ Association to find out more about why celebrating diversity is important on and off the pitch.
Kelly, thank you so much for joining us today. Tell us more about your role as the diversity manager at the AFL Players’ Association.
I work to develop new programs that celebrate the many cultures that exist within the AFL, and support our Indigenous and Multicultural players. Every player has unique circumstances, so I might work with industry stakeholders to help them understand how best to support each player, arrange a mentorship programs, or arrange celebrations of Indigenous or women’s Rounds for the AFL Players’ Association. It’s about ensuring everyone’s voices are heard.
2017 has been a big year for women’s sport in Australia. Why do you think the creation of more female sporting leagues is so important?
As a female, it’s a great time to be involved in sport. New opportunities are arising for women at an elite level in the AFLW, soccer and the Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL), and the games are being televised. It was great to turn my television on the other day and see cricketer Ellyse Perry being interviewed about The Ashes. When a young girl sees women being involved in sport, it doesn’t only show her that she can play sport at the highest level, but that she can be highly successful in her career, whatever that might be.
How do you balance your illustrious sporting and work career with motherhood? 
It’s a team effort really! I’m fortunate to have a supportive partner and family who lend a hand in the day to day duties at home, which allows me to pursue my career. In my experience it is possible to be a working parent, but you need to be able to balance your time. I’ve come to the understanding that my working day doesn’t happen from 9-5, but when my house is quiet and the children are in bed!
What expectations or challenges have you both faced as a same-sex couple from your workplace & community when it comes to parenting and balancing the juggle?
Juggling the demands of having young children and a busy lifestyle is the same for us as any other couple, and I’m grateful to the Players’ Association for making me feel so supported during my periods of parental leave. We have two daughters – my partner Emma gave birth to our elder daughter Ella and was the primary carer for her, and I gave birth to Charlotte, so I’ve taken parental leave this time around. The financial implications have been a big consideration for us too, so I will go back to work and Emma will take parental leave in a few months. I think it makes a huge difference for both parents to enjoy time with the children.
What did it mean to you that Australia voted yes to marriage equality?
If I’m honest, I have mixed emotions towards it. I’m so grateful that Emma and I will now be able to have the same legal rights as other couples, however I feel there is still a great deal to do to support individuals following the campaign period. While same-sex couples still experience some challenges in certain pockets of the community, I want to make certain our children grow up understanding how proud we are of them and our family.
If there was one thing you would like to see happen for your daughters in your lifetime, what would it be?
For me it’s simple: equal rights on all fronts.