The Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) is beginning what is being described as a “painful but long overdue” process to re-invent itself after years of criticism about athlete performances on the international stage.
The ABC understands more than 40 jobs will be affected as the AIS introduces new performance criteria to measure success, including a desire for Australia to “consistently win medals at major international events”.
Last week executives began the process of informing all AIS staff of the proposed changes, impacting a range of positions across the organisation.
It is understood the changes will affect areas like biomechanics and physiology among others.
Concerns have been raised by some staff that the changes will see “years of experience” lost to the organisation, with some transferring to individual sporting bodies.
The ABC has obtained the email from AIS director Peter Conde sent to all staff last Friday, making the case for change.
“This process is absolutely necessary for the AIS to play its leadership role within an effective high performance sport system, and to regain its position as a world leader,” he said.
“The change is painful but unfortunately long overdue.”
The AIS’s new strategy aims to see the institution become less “science and services dominant” and “Canberra-centric”, transitioning to an increased focus on athlete welfare and development, and partnering more with universities.
It sets out new performance criteria to measure success, including Australia being a top five to 10 nation at the Olympic Games, and top one to two at the Commonwealth Games.
Staff are currently being consulted on the proposed changes and the AIS has invited feedback from staff over the coming weeks.
It is not known what the changes might mean for the AIS’s physical assets in Canberra.
In a statement to the ABC a spokesman for the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) said the changes were part of broader measures being implemented at a federal government level.
“The ASC and AIS is progressing with work to ensure we provide world-class leadership and support that best serves the future needs of Australian sport,” he said.
“This is being done in alignment with the development of a National Sport Plan.
“Once this process is complete, the ASC will make further comment.”
New director Conde came with agenda for change
In 2016 the AIS was labelled by former Australian Olympic Committee media director Mike Tancred as “deserted” and a “ghost town”.
Australia’s lacklustre performance at the Rio 2016 Olympics sparked questions over the funding and development of elite athletes.
Last year, Mr Conde was appointed AIS director, having overseen remarkable Olympic and Paralympic success while in charge of Sailing Australia.
In an interview with the ABC shortly after taking up the role, Mr Conde flagged change was on the way for the organisation.
“I’ve got no doubt that the AIS needs to evolve — and that’s part of the reason why I’ve taken on this great challenge,” he said in August last year.
Mr Conde also suggested building stronger relationships with existing individual sporting bodies and academies could be a way forward for the organisation.
“The most important thing will be to make sure that we have incredibly collaborative relationships with the institutes and other institutions around the country,” he said.
“I think we’re on that track, but a lot more needs to be done.”