Interview | Nicola Barr

April 17, 2023

We were lucky enough to chat with AFLW’s Nicola Barr about her work as a climate advocate and how she integrates her sporting and climate work. Since we had this chance to speak to Nic we've been even luckier to have her come on board as FrontRunners inaugural Decarbonising Sports Lead. How good.

How long have you been in AFL and what is your proudest sporting moment?

I have been playing AFL since I was 17. I grew up outside of Aus until I was 14, so AFL wasn’t an option until I moved to Sydney. Growing up, I played as many sports as I possibly could - soccer, cross country, basketball, netball, volleyball - you name it, I wanted to try it. Sport was a great way for me to make friends, learn something new and stay healthy. At 17, my school wanted to enter an AFL team to play in a gala day. They rallied all of the sportiest, fittest, most coordinated athletes from different sports, and got us to have a go. I haven’t looked back since that first game. AFL combined all of the skills I loved from other sports - running, kicking, catching. And it was also such a great team sport - you really have to be selfless and often do a lot of unrewarded work to be the best team you can be. I think it teaches you to work collaboratively which is a skill I feel is so applicable to every day life and work outside of footy.

My proudest sporting moment would probably be in season 6 of the AFLW, earlier this year. It was another COVID affected season, and in Round 4 we had several of our best players that needed to sit out of the game due to injury and having COVID. The odds were against us - we were playing the Bulldogs who are a strong team, we were missing some of our best players, and our season hadn’t started strongly. We played out of our skin that day and took the challenge on, winning the game 43-22. Proudest victory that I’ve been a part of with the GIANTS.

When did climate action become important to you? Was there a specific moment

Being out in nature has always been where I’m the happiest. Whether it’s riding my bike, ocean swimming, surfing, or hiking, I love being outside and breathing in the fresh air. I love being able to share these experiences with others as well. In 2019/2020, the Black Summer Bushfires was a real wake up call. The air quality was so bad that we were being recommended to stay inside. Not only did this impact my day to day activities, it also had a significant impact on playing footy. We had to adapt our GIANTS training to be inside at times, and when we did train outside it was difficult to breath. The fires made me realise that climate change is actually having an affect on the way that we live our lives. It puts what we love doing - playing sport, going on outdoor adventures, etc - at risk.

Playing sport and being active has always been a huge part of my, my family, and my friends’ lives. Everyone has something that they love doing, and climate change and the extreme weather events that result from it, is impacting the things that we love to do. I want to do my part, whatever that looks like, to contribute to climate action so that future generations can continue doing things that they love and that make life special.

Tell us about AFL Players for Climate Action and the work you've been doing in climate/sustainability!

AFL Players for Climate Action was founded by Tom Campbell and Jasper Pittard. Tom currently still plays AFL, and Jasper has recently retired. Similar to my experience, they felt the effects of the Black Summer Bushfires in 2019/20 and noticed how much it was impacting their jobs as players. AFLP4CA’s vision is to be a climate leader, and to ensure a safe future for our planet and for the game of AFL. I am currently on the board of AFLP4CA and assist where I can on our strategy, and on various initiatives. This is complimented by my role at the GIANTS on the business side, where I work as Sustainability and Social Impact Coordinator. In this role, I’m working with our team on various sustainability initiatives, making sure that when decisions are made that sustainability is front if mind, and on developing a sustainability strategy. It’s challenging at times, but AFLP4CA is a great support network. Additionally, I sit on the board of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust. This is a new role, and I’m looking forward to learning from and working with the other board directors (who have incredible experience) to create great outcomes.

Is there anything happening in the climate space that you're particularly interested in or excited about?

Recently there has been a lot of media attention on athletes that have spoken up about fossil fuel sponsorships. Whilst this has been challenging for the athletes themselves, it has sparked great conversations in the industry, and is forcing sports administrators to think more deeply about sponsorship, and how we can ensure that we are promoting good in sport. The fact that these conversations are being had is exciting, and it’s forcing all of us to question or consider why companies and brands want to partner with athletes and sporting codes. It also opens up opportunity for brands that are doing good to consider becoming involved in sport and using the powerful platform that athletes have to promote positive, sustainable change.

Climate change can be overwhelming. How do you stay positive and what motivates you to keep being an advocate?

Being in nature is really grounding for me. It’s where I’m happiest, and it helps me to keep great perspective. It reminds me why I need to stay true to my values, and on this course, because I want future generations to enjoy the beauty that we have in the natural world. It’s also important that I stay connected with people that share similar values and are fighting for change. I make sure I catch up regularly with these people because it reminds you that you aren’t alone, and there is a team of people on the same path.

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