Prominent sportswoman, public sector leader, and disability advocate, Jane Spring AM, has been appointed Chair of Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF).
A member of the SUSF Board since January 2020, Jane replaces David Mortimer AO who retired at the end of 2023 after four years in the role.
“To be the first female Chair of the Board of SUSF is a great privilege,” Jane said. “I am excited by the opportunity to bring my insights as a woman and a person with a disability to this role. I wish to build on the work that David 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 woman with a disability to have this role, my insights as a sports administrator, elite athlete, and recreational sportsperson 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 fulfill their potential.
“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. 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.”
The University of Sydney, Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AC said the historic appointment of Jane – the first woman Chair since the University’s first sporting body was established in 1890 – would support the ongoing focus on elite sporting achievement, well-being, 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,” said the Chancellor
“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 AO.”
Jane first stepped on campus in 1982 to study economics after completing her schooling at Ravenswood. During her honours year in 1985, she moved into Women’s College and while there was introduced to rowing.
The College club reformed into the Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC), and she became the first President, a role she was to hold until 2010. She competed or coached in rowing for many years at the Australian Universities Games, and she also skied for the University. The Women’s Rowing Club won the NSW Rowing Association Premiership for the university in 1995 after an 85-year drought.
In October 2008, Jane was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the University for her services to rowing. SUBC has since named a craft in her honor. In accepting the Fellowship, Jane said the highlights of her rowing career included being selected to row in the NSW Lightweight four in 1989 (and turning down the opportunity in 1990 to focus on sculling), winning the NSW Champion Lightweight Scull twice, and winning the Australian Lightweight Double Sculling championship.
“I was named Sydney University Women’s Sports Association Sportswoman of the Year in 1990 and was set to represent Australia in 1990 when I was in a car accident and I spent five months in hospital instead,” she said. “I have since represented NSW in wheelchair basketball twice.”
She also finished her LLB degree and worked as a solicitor for three years before joining the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG). While the accident cruelled her chances of rowing at the Games, she spent the next six years as the secretary of the SOCOG Sports Commission and then as the manager of Games Training.
During the 2000 Games and for two weeks before the Opening Ceremony, she also managed the Olympic Village Gymnasium. After the Olympics, she was a recipient of the Australian Sports Medal awarded by the Commonwealth Government. She has also received the NSW Government Community Services Award.
And at her alma mater, she has a ‘Blue’ for Rowing and a ‘Gold’ for services to the Sydney University Women’s Sports Association. She is also an honorary member of SUSF and served as a Fellow of University Senate from 2009-13.