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The Tasmanian Women’s Amateur Athletics Association had a rocky start in the 1930s but when some determined women took up the challenge again in 1951 it was a different story.
Before 1935, and then again from 1938 to 1950, women wishing to participate in athletics only had two options: schoolgirl competitions with short sprints and novelty events, or enter meets under the auspices of the men’s body, the Tasmanian Amateur Athletics Association (TAAA), to compete in short sprints and relay. Despite these restrictions, Tasmania produced some fine women runners. Edith Youl won the hurdles at the National Games. June Smith (later Bowring) was nationally competitive but unable to “officially” compete in the National Women’s Championships because Tasmania did not have a women’s association.
In 1935 the Tasmanian Women’s Amateur Athletics Association (TWAAA) was formed and affiliated with the Australian Women’s Amateur Athletics Union to enable Tasmanian women to compete nationally. However, locally the TWAAA was not supported. Some educational authorities opposed the promotion of track and field activities for young women. The TWAAA went into recess in 1938.
The driving force behind the reforming of the TWAAA was Mavis Triffitt (later Ebzery) who became honorary secretary in 1951 and retained the role until 1981 when the TWAAA and TAAA merged to form Athletics Tasmania.
From 1951 to 1981, the TWAAA served its objectives. Athletics clubs formed throughout the state, competitions were held, and State Championships were hosted annually.
As early as 1956, the TWAAA was able to claim the honour of producing Tasmania’s first female Olympian, Heather Innes AM, a javelin thrower; and Tasmania’s first female Olympic official, Mavis Triffitt, who as Mavis Ebzery was appointed Women’s Manager of the Athletics section for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Team. Mavis also officiated at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane with Tasmanian women Elaine McLeod, Kimbra Eyles and Heather Marshall.
By the 1970s TWAAA membership exceeded 500 athletes, including national medallists and champions such as Penny Gray Dunbabin and Jocelyn Millar Cubit.