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Club and Community | 02 March 2023

#EmbraceEquity - Janelle Pallister

This International Women’s Day, Swimming Australia is joining the millions of people worldwide collectively seeking to #EmbraceEquity.

The 2023 theme asks us to Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

One of the many avenues through which to #EmbraceEquity is to celebrate women’s achievement and, while Australian swimming is fortunate to have countless examples, both past and present, of incredible female achievement in the pool, we also have a number of inspiring female leaders driving the success of the sport out of the water.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, Swimming Australia is going to highlight those women forging change in the workplace. The second woman to be profiled as part of the #EmbraceEquity series is Australian Dolphin #370 and current Assistant Coach at the leading Griffith University club, Janelle Pallister.

Who did, or continues to, inspire your leadership style?
I like to think many people have come into my life and many have left impressions. People like Dawn Fraser whom I have been friends with since I was 17yrs old (so many years) and now also a big influence in Lani’s life which could be seen at the recent World Short Course Championships. My mum and dad were also big influences in setting my values and ethics.

My past coaches all left footprints Dick Caine, Bill Sweetenham, Brian Sutton, John Carew. Those currently in the sport I think it’s people like Michael Bohl whom I co coach with now has a massive influence. I’ve spent time with Mel Marshall who is an absolutely amazing lady. Strong, independent, passionate and compassionate. A very deep thinker who cares so much about her athletes as people first.

Belinda Clark who has just been immortalised in Bronze. Her ability to tap into peoples qualities and help them to grow is impressive. Again another icon who is not about themselves but about helping other people be the best they can be. I think I look at those who have and continue to influence me are those who lead with compassion, drive for improvement and care.

What brings you the most satisfaction in your role?
I love it when I see any and all athletes that I leave or have left a footprint with them and helped them achieve what they set out to do. Their goals, their dreams, being able to help them overcome struggles and hurdles. Help them improve their swimming, their sport, their mindset, their life balance. It brings a lot of joy to my heart to help people be the best they can be in whatever they choose to do. 

What more needs to be done to foster the pathway for female leaders?
I think the first thing that needs to be done is to allow and encourage females to feel like their voice is as important – ultimately, to feel equal. We need to change our language and how female coaches/leaders are seen. I don’t think any female I know who is in a leadership role wanted to be given it because they were female. I have never wanted to be seen as a token, which is how I have been seen for a long time. I heard a saying the other day from Abby Wombach in her Book Wolfpack, “be grateful for what you have been given but also know your worth”. There are many programs out there for Females, but it comes down to belief in oneself as well. Finally, after 53yrs (nearly) I’ve finally started to believe in me and my abilities.

I’m not out to put anyone down, I’m in this industry to build a better person, better swimmer, better nation and better unity. My journey is not about me, it never has been and never will be, but who I can help be the best they can be along the way.

What advice would you offer yourself if starting your career over again?
Something I heard Mel Marshall say on “Ask Any Question” It was stop worrying about what other people think of you, get out there and be the best version of you. Michael Bohl sent the link to me and wrote “this is you.” I listened and laughed and said “Yes, I know you’re right.” We then had a great conversation around this. This started to shift my thinking. I can’t please everyone.

I would also say, there will be many people who will TRY and knock you down throughout your journey, stay true to yourself, find those who will champion you, surround yourself with positive people and keep being the best version of yourself. Remember the WHY you do this job. This for me has never changed. It is to help people be the best they can be.

Be prepared for an adventure and be proud to call yourself a Coach. This took me many, many, years to acknowledge. I was embarrassed to call myself a coach there for a while.

What does #EmbraceEquity mean to you?
#EmbraceEquity means inclusiveness, diversity and unity. If we can all help create this then we have Harmony. Wouldn’t that be nice.

One to finish off with.

Many times I wanted to quit because of many reasons I couldn’t control, treatment I couldn’t control, abuse I couldn’t control, opinions I couldn’t control, gossip I couldn’t control. But I stayed true to myself and stayed strong through the tears to pave a way for the future of my daughter and many other daughters and females out there. Nothing changes unless we have strong people through history to show it can be done.