Sport NZ - Rebecca Rolls
Rebecca Rolls
4 min read

Sport New Zealand has strengthened its Diversity and Inclusion responsibilities with the announcement that Rebecca Rolls has signed on to be the new Diversity and Inclusion Manager.

Responsible for the organisation’s Women & Girls Strategy and Disability Action Plan, as well as leadership and advocacy in other areas of diversity and inclusion Rolls, who is of Ngāti Porou descent, has previously represented New Zealand as a Football Fern and White Fern.

Rolls was an established member of the Government Women’s Network and, as part of the NZ Olympic Committee Women’s Sport Leadership Academy, contributed to a research project on “Inclusive Culture, Challenging Unconscious Gender Bias in Sport”. She was also part of the Diversity and Inclusion challenge stream in the recent NZ Football Delivery and Sustainability Project.


Rolls said she is thrilled to join Sport NZ and have an opportunity to contribute to achieving greater diversity and inclusion across the sector.

“For me this is an opportunity to bring together the two sides of my career so far – leadership in the public sector and what I have achieved in sport as an athlete, administrator and director,” Rolls said.

“It has been exciting to observe how strongly the sector has got behind the Government Strategy for Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation. I can’t wait to contribute to this work and help make the most of the wonderful opportunity New Zealand has in hosting three women’s world cups and the IWG World Conference.

“There is also important work to do in disability and other areas of diversity and inclusion. I see this as an opportunity to make a real difference for those currently underrepresented in sport and active recreation.”

Sport NZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle said she is thrilled to have Rebecca Rolls joining the organisation in this important role and she will commence her role on July 5.

“Our vision is to have Every Body Active and that means making sure sport and recreation provides a welcoming and inclusive experience for all New Zealanders, and that people are treated with empathy and respect,” Castle said.

“A lot of great work has been done across the sector in recent years for women and girls and disabled New Zealanders, but we need to maintain this momentum and continue to push forward.

Raelene Castle, when chief of Rugby Australia
Raelene Castle, when chief of Rugby Australia

“Rebecca is the ideal person to lead this work. She has excellent leadership skills, a deep understanding of our sector and has played a key role in a wide range of diversity and inclusion projects and networks.

In a recent interview with NZ Golf Magazine Castle mentioned her time at Rugby Australia where she terminated the contract of Israel Folau for his homophobic social media comments.

As the CEO of the organisation, Castle was under immense public and private scrutiny and probably faced one of the most challenging issues in relation to LGBTIQ communities in religion that any sports administrator has ever had to face. You could forgive anyone going through that not to feel it changed her in some way. But does it live with her every day?

“No,” as she hesitated from giving the answer for some time. “It doesn’t live with me every day from that particular issue in person.

“What lives with me every day is the learnings, because that’s the piece that’s important. The piece of how Rugby Australia stood up for something that made a difference to a portion of our community being the rainbow community,” as she thumps her fist on the desk.

“And they felt safe to play the sport of rugby because they knew that there was leadership there across the board and leadership that was prepared to say, this is not okay and everybody’s welcome in our sport.

“And it fundamentally changes and makes people feel safe because they can come into an environment and know that they will be respected and if not that they can call it out and someone will back them up.

“People have said to me oh my goodness, thank you for standing up for the rainbow community and that wasn’t how I looked at it, it was about what was right and wrong, and because everyone deserves to be welcomed into an environment and it doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, what’s your status.

“Sport should be something that’s fundamentally inclusive. So disability, race, gender, rainbow it doesn’t matter what it is we need to provide sports in this country that are welcoming and non-judgmental to all of those different groups.

Along with a focus of women on boards and more women coaches, Castle said Sport NZ wants to also focus on disabilities and the LGBTI community.

“There’s a disability plan to make sure that we’ve got sports that are supportive and have structural systems in place to allow people with disability to be able to engage. That’s a real focus.

“Then the LGBTI piece is that fourth part of that and one of the pieces of feedback we have back from sport is that we are not quite sure how to deal with this. So in the new integrity portal, there is some specific policies and indications of how to engage with the rainbow communities. So you know, we’re all on a journey with it.

“But there comes a time where we’ve got to say actually, learning is not good enough we need some action.”

Last Updated on May 24, 2021

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