15 years on, AGF Research Scholar Ashleigh Marshall’s study will shine new light on female sporting careers, a topic Amy Gillett planned to investigate

Today, the Amy Gillett Foundation is thrilled to announce its partnership with Victoria University to support a new PhD to investigate what we can do to support female athletes’ transitions to thriving careers beyond sport. 

Ashleigh Marshall has been awarded the third Amy Gillett Foundation Research Scholarship to support her research into how national sporting organisations can maximise opportunities for elite female athletes who suddenly need to transition into a new career.

“I am extremely honoured to receive this scholarship from the Amy Gillett Foundation and Victoria University and excited to be able to further Amy’s vision of improving and enhancing support for female elite athletes,”

Ms Marshall

Ms Marshall’s PhD is jointly funded by Victoria University and the Amy Gillett Foundation. The AGF is able to support this PhD through the generous donation of a silent philanthropist. Ms Marshall will be supported by Lead Supervisor Professor Clare Hanlon of Victoria University. 

“Opportunities are increasing for women to become professional athletes, unfortunately these women may experience a sudden career transition away from playing elite sport. The unique aim of this research is to guide the improvement of policy and practices within national sport organisations towards female athletes who have unexpected transitions away from playing sport,”

Professor Hanlon

Ms Marshall is a Sport Administration and Event Management professional who has worked at Mountain Bike Australia, Sport Australia and Badminton Queensland and holds a Master’s degree in Olympic Studies from the International Olympic Academy and University of Peloponnese. During her study, Ms Marshall will also work part time at the Amy Gillett Foundation assisting with research and policy as a Research Assistant.

When Amy Gillett was killed, she had commenced a PhD to investigate how women transitioned and adjusted to life after sport. Amy’s mother, Mary Safe, feels this work became Amy’s unfinished business. 

“As Amy’s parents we are excited and grateful that Ms Marshall’s PhD will be supported by the kindness and generosity of a benefactor and the AGF and from Victoria University,”

Mrs Safe

Titled, ‘Maximising opportunities for elite female athletes who suddenly need to transition into a new career’, Ms Marshall’s PhD will also be co-supervised by Associate Professor Camilla Brockett (Victoria University) and  Professor Murray Drummond (Flinders University). 

Amy’s study was to be supervised by Professor Murray Drummond, Director of the Sport, Health, Activity, Performance & Exercise (SHAPE) Research Centre at Flinders University.

Professor Drummond remembers Amy travelling the world cycling and working part-time on her PhD,

“She sent me an email that was her ‘lightbulb moment’ for how she was going to structure her research. It was factors associated with women in sport looking at participation and retention among elite athletes, including social support, financial support and structural support.” “Amy emailed me this information overnight. I read her email in the morning. Several hours later I received a phone call from my head of faculty to tell me that Amy had been hit and killed,” said,

Professor Drummond

Amy Gillett’s family, teammates and the cycling community understand what it’s like for female athletes when a crash takes a life and changes everything. Amy’s teammates suffered major injuries and trauma and these women spent months and years recovering. In the aftermath of the crash, these women were prematurely propelled into life beyond the sport they loved. 

Louise Padgett (nee Yaxley) was a member of the Australian cycling team. She was training alongside Amy Gillett when the entire team was hit by an out-of-control car, killing Amy and severely injuring the other team members. 

“I think this PhD work is so important. Female cyclists don’t get huge sponsorships or contracts so it’s important to understand how they can be supported when their career is over. When I was on the Australian team I knew it wouldn’t last forever, but I never for a moment thought ‘what if a crash cut my career short?’”,

Ms Padgett

The announcement of this scholarship marks the third PhD to be funded by the Amy Gillett Foundation. Dr Marilyn Johnson, Monash University Senior Research Fellow and AGF Research and Policy Manager, completed a PhD in 2011 with the support of the AGF, Cyclist safety: an investigation of how cyclists and drivers interact on the roads. PhD candidate Aaron McInnes is currently completing an evaluation of Sharing Roads Safely, to address how cyclists and heavy vehicle drivers can share the road more safely.

Research provided from these studies is vital to the foundation of the evidence-based approach adopted by the AGF in pursuit of safe cycling for all Australians. This research has been formative in helping the AGF develop policy positions, campaigns and education programs.

We also know that there is a direct correlation between cycling safety and female participation, the safer a community’s cycling infrastructure, the higher the number of women and children riding. Ms Marshall’s PhD will contribute greater understanding of how we can support women to pursue professional sporting careers like cycling by taking a holistic approach, and this will help increase the visibility of female cyclists and the need to make roads safe. 

“This PhD is only possible because of the generous support of a philanthropist who wishes to remain anonymous. Generous supporters like this will help AGF achieve its goal of zero cycling deaths on Australia’s roads. There are areas of cycling safety that urgently need work and we hope this PhD encourages others to consider supporting AGF’s work,”

Mr Dan Kneipp, AGF CEO
Article by AGF Media

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