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Netball Commits To Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Under-Representation

F
ollowing recent criticisms of Super Netball only having one Indigenous Australian participant, 20 national, state and territory-based netball bodies have pledged to take significant action to break down barriers preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, coaches, umpires, and administrators from the sport.

The coalition of netball’s peak organisations have signed a Declaration of Commitment requiring the entire netball system to understand and then resolve the issue of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander under-representation at elite levels.

The decision comes following the Suncorp Super Netball’s Indigenous Round which saw the only Indigenous player in the league, Jemma Mi Mi, receive no court time, despite being featured in promotions for the round.

Following the Indigenous Round, several former Indigenous Netball Diamonds expressed their frustrations over the incident, with the first Aboriginal Australian to represent Australia in netball, Marcia Ella-Duncan, urging Netball Australia to initiate change.

“The last couple of months, in particular, have been a rollercoaster ride of emotion for me,” Ella-Duncan said.

“Both disappointment and frustration I have to confess to feeling quite angry.

“It was a time where I had to draw a line in the sand.

“I had some forceful and powerful conversations with some of the people at Netball Australia because I really had to make my feelings known,” she said.

Following this incident, Netball Australia chief executive, Marne Fechner, apologised to any Indigenous person in the netball community who felt barriers within the sport had not been acknowledged or rectified.

“We both know that it is unacceptable to only have one Aboriginal player in Suncorp Super Netball league, but our challenge as a sport goes far beyond what happened to one player in one single game,” Fechner said.

As part of the declaration, Netball Australia acknowledged netball hasn’t fully addressed barriers confronting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Ella-Duncan, along with Sharon Finnan-White, Stacey Campton, and Ali Tucker-Munro, have agreed to step into leadership roles supporting netball to develop strategic framework to deliver promised change.

In a statement, Netball Australia said the coming months will see several key milestones and steps in the process of reconciliation.

These include the State of the Game Review findings in October 2020, the Progressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pathways Forum in December 2020, and the National Strategy Framework and Targets launch in April 2021.

“The need to enact sustainable, systemic change is a large and multi-faceted challenge,” Netball Australia said in a statement.

“But it’s one that, from today, will be a focus for the entire netball family.

“We acknowledge that netball hasn’t fully addressed the barriers that confront Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our system, and we apologise for this.

“We know it is unacceptable to have only one Aboriginal player within the Suncorp Super Netball league, but our challenge as a sport goes far beyond what happened to one player in a single game.

“We understand that strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation rates and talent within our grassroots and state and territory competitions are not translating into our elite pathway,” Netball Australia said.