Jane Spring, a prominent sportswoman, public sector leader and disability advocate, has been appointed Chair of Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness.
Ms Spring, who is currently Chair of the Disability Council of NSW, is a former champion rower and wheelchair basketball player. She is both the first woman and the first person with disability to chair Australia’s leading university sporting body since the merger of the historic men’s and women’s sports associations in 2003.
A member of the Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) Board since January 2020, Ms Spring replaces David Mortimer AO who retires as Chair in December 2023 after four years in the role.
Ms Spring is also currently Chair of the University of Sydney Sports Foundation, which drives sports philanthropy, and is NSW Co-Chapter Lead of not-for-profit mentoring organisation Minerva Network, which supports elite female athletes on and off the field.
University of Sydney Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson said the historic appointment of Ms Spring – the first woman Chair since the University’s first sporting body was established in 1890 – would support the ongoing focus on elite sporting achievement, wellbeing and inclusion.
“As both the first woman appointed to lead Australia’s premier tertiary sporting body and the first wheelchair user in the role, Jane’s appointment is a landmark one for the University and Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness,” Ms Hutchinson said.
“Her track record of sporting excellence as both an athlete and administrator, and her enormous contribution to accessibility and inclusion through her roles at the NSW Disability Council, Australian Disability Strategy Advisory Council and the University of Sydney Sports Foundation, make her the perfect person to succeed David Mortimer. I would like to recognise and thank David for his generous and highly valued contribution to SUSF and the University over many years.”
Jane Spring, who has been in a wheelchair for 33 years after being seriously injured in a car accident, said she was honoured and excited to assume the position.
“To be the first female Chair of the Board of SUSF is a great privilege. I am excited by the opportunity to bring my insights as a woman and a person with a disability to this role,” Ms Spring said.
“I wish to build on the work that David Mortimer AO has done in four years as Chair and to ensure the Board continues to work effectively as we support the CEO and SUSF staff to deliver our strategy.
“As well as being the first women with a disability to have this role, my insights as a sports administrator, elite athlete and recreational sports person are also significant. I am also excited to partner with the University to ensure that the student experience at the University of Sydney provides the opportunity for all students to fulfil their potential.”
Ms Spring, who as Chair will oversee the University’s famed sports program which has seen the University of Sydney produce more Olympians and Paralympians than any other campus in Australia, said she had enjoyed a life-long passion for sport and that at the age of 59, she continued to sustain her energy by staying fit.
“Sports is a stage for all people, disabled or not, to show what they can do and provides an opportunity to explore potential of all sorts – for elite performance, participation in competition with others and capacity to grow and improve,” she said.
“I am passionate about sport, particularly as a person who was able to lean on my love of sport during a difficult time in my life. I have experienced personally the transformative power of sport in being able to pick people up and help them through the most difficult times of their lives.”
Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Scott said Ms Spring, a leading figure at the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and her family had a long and storied relationship with the University.
“In addition to completing her economics degree with honours at the University in the 1980s, Jane was elected president of the Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club in 1986 – a position she held until 2010 – and has more recently served as a Fellow of Senate from 2009-13, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, Sir Frederick Deer, who was a Fellow of the University Senate from 1959-83,” Professor Scott said.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank David Mortimer AO for his service to the community as outgoing Chair. David’s impact and influence on the University’s sporting community has already been recognised in the naming of the David Mortimer High Performance Gym at the TAG Family Foundation Grandstand, but his legacy extends well beyond that, as evidenced by his honorary doctorate in 2021 for his contributions to business and art as well as sport.”
Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness CEO Ed Smith praised Mr Mortimer’s contribution, saying he had provided invaluable leadership and guidance during the organisation’s first four years of incorporation as a not-for-profit company.
“David’s unwavering support has been instrumental in helping SUSF to grow its participation sports programs while maintaining its success at the high-performance and club levels,” Mr Smith said.