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Basketball Australia racial equality review criticises ‘white boys’ club’ mentality

Basketball Australia racial equality review criticises ‘white boys’ club’ mentality
March 19, 2021

Basketball Australia has pledged to act on findings in a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission that people of colour have limited opportunities in the sport.

Engaged by Basketball Australia to conduct the investigation after the Opals threatened to stop training last year until more was done to support the sport's black and Indigenous players, the Human Rights Commission has delivered 12 recommendations to provide a blueprint for inclusion in the sport.

Only five Indigenous women featured in the WNBL last season, while Nate Jawai was the first Indigenous Australian to play in the NBA and only active player in the NBL. There are also no people of colour on the Basketball Australia board.

Amid claims of the sport having a "white boys' club" mentality, the Commission received 21 confidential submissions from past and current national players, coaches and family members as well as interviewing administrators and organising a focus group limiting opportunities for players of colour in the sport.

The Commission also completed an audit of Basketball Australia's corporate policies, protocols and governance in relation to racial equality at the national level.

The report also detailed accounts of "casual racism" and cultural ignorance and recommends Basketball Australia celebrate cultural heritage and acknowledge lived experiences through practical action rather than just "performative, (symbolic) gestures".

Advising that action had already been taken to act on the report's recommendations, including a targeted effort to diversify board membership and broader recruitment, Basketball Australia Chief Executive Jerril Rechter stated “the Black Lives Matter social movement asked the world to look inward and act to support the delivery of racial equality, and that's exactly what Basketball Australia did by approaching the Australian Human Rights Commission to undertake this independent review.

"For decades, Australian basketball has been enriched by people of colour and by undertaking this review, Basketball Australia took a position of leadership in acknowledging that as a governing body we need to ensure the organisation reflects our diverse community.

"The findings and recommendations of this review are a call to action for Basketball Australia to improve its culture and its structural systems to build an organisation and a sport where everyone can grow, develop, progress and feel included."

The recommendations, which focus on three key areas: Leadership and Governance; Cultural Safety; and Inclusion and Pathways for Progression, include calls for Basketball Australia to:

  • Enhance and accelerate inclusive leadership capability to ensure leaders understand and can appropriately respond to issues such as everyday racism, sexism, accessibility, disability, homophobia and inclusive culture
  • Introduce targets for board composition
  • Embed principles of racial equality into all policies and national player and staff education
  • Commission an in-depth independent review of all recruitment and promotion processes, including those in the national teams officials selection policy, to ensure they are free from bias and are open and transparent
  • Broaden partnerships with communities to increase pathways for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and people from racial, ethnic, and/or ethno-religious minority groups to progress through the sport in on and off court roles

Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner, Chin Tan, said Basketball Australia's review was a positive example for others, adding "I am pleased to see that Basketball Australia has committed to action on the back of the Commission's review.

"Structural racism erodes the ability for people to be treated fairly and equally, and it needs to be addressed proactively by all sectors of Australian society."

The NBL is currently undertaking a review of its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

Click here to read the Commission’s report following its independent Review.

Lower image: Basketball Australia Chief Executive Jerril Rechter.

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