Published March 2023
Netball star Sharelle McMahon became the fifth female athlete in Victoria to have a public statue on Wednesday, as the sculptors behind the artwork say they have been inundated with requests for more Australian sportswomen to be cast in bronze.
The statue of McMahon – who captained the Diamonds 12 times over a nearly 15-year career – was unveiled at John Cain Arena on International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
“Stats that we hear around the imbalance of representation of female athletes in statue form right across Victoria is always a bit of a shock,” McMahon said before the statue was revealed.
“I’ve been surrounded by incredibly strong passionate women from the moment I was born.”
Statues of McMahon and Olympic runners Betty Cuthbert and Shirley Strickland are the only works of sportswomen on public display in Melbourne, while there are plans for permanent locations for statues not on display of Indigenous athlete and politician Nova Peris and AFLW star Tayla Harris’ spectacular kick.
Statues for Equality co-founder Gillie Schattner, who was commissioned to do the statue, says of the thousands of sporting nominations the project receives via its website, requests for sculptures are highest for cricketer Ellyse Perry, former tennis player Sam Stosur and Matildas star Sam Kerr.
In Victoria, requests often name women’s AFL pioneer Debbie Lee, AFLW player and former cricketer Emma Kearney, netballer Liz Watson, cricketer Beth Mooney and Paralympic swimmer Ellie Cole. However, Schattner wants sporting organisations to consult widely about whose legacies have been overlooked.
“Out of the 580 statues in Melbourne, only nine are women,” Schattner said of those on permanent display. “[Girls] really don’t have anything to look up to when there are no statues out there showcasing amazing sportswomen.”
Netball Victoria has also commissioned Schattner for a sculpture of Anne Henderson for the State Netball Centre in Parkville. Statues of the nation’s first federal female politicians, Dame Enid Lyons and Dame Dorothy Tangney by sculptor Lis Johnson, were also revealed in Canberra on Wednesday.