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Netball Australia announces support for Indigenous players through declaration of commitment

Netball Australia announces support for Indigenous players through declaration of commitment
September 29, 2020

Peak organisations in Australian netball have pledged to take significant action to break down the barriers that have prevented Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, coaches, umpires and administrators from reaching their full potential in the sport.

In an historic move, 20 national, state and territory based and club bodies have signed a Declaration of Commitment which requires the entire netball system to understand and then resolve the issue of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander under-representation at elite levels.

Sparked by recent debate around Suncorp Super Netball’s Indigenous Round - where the only Indigenous Super Netball player, Jemma Mi Mi, did not play - but also building from the stories and experiences of former players and officials, the Declaration is described by Netball Australia “as netball’s first unified response to this critical issue”.

The agreement is the result of intensive discussion in which key decision-makers turned the microscope on the system and also themselves. This delivered a series of reflections and insights including:

• 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. 

In June, Netball Australia made a public commitment to listen, learn and change by engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and hearing about their experiences within netball. This work continues.

In July, the independent State of the Game review launched a root-and-branch assessment of Australian netball. This includes research into the structural and behavioural barriers that limit opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to reach their full potential in our sport.

Advising that it was time for the sport to take responsibility in this space, Netball Australia Chief Executive, Marne Fechner stated “today is significant, because for the first time the entire netball system is saying 'enough'.

"We will no longer tolerate systems and processes that alienate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples.

"And we will no longer tolerate a fragmented approach, that allows us to say that it is someone else's responsibility."

Netball Queensland in particular has faced a lot of criticism, as the organisation linked to Mi Mi's Super Netball team, the Firebirds.

A number of former players from Queensland have spoken out about mistreatment and challenges they faced playing netball in their elite pathways - issues that ultimately led to them dropping out of the sport.

Eugenie Buckley, Chair of Netball Queensland, said that while there was plenty of work to be done, the sporting organisation hoped the announcement would demonstrate its willingness to commit to action.

Buckley told the ABC “talk is cheap if there is no action.

"So if there's a section of the community that don't feel like they belong in the sport, it's up to us to fix the problem.

"We are happy to sit down and be held accountable. This is a great first step."

Netball’s Declaration of Commitment has many elements, but the early phases will focus on understanding further the experiences of players, coaches, umpires and administrators in our system, identifying the barriers to greater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation and creating sustainable change plans.

Images: Top, courtesy of Netball Australia and below, Marne Fechner.

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1st September 2020 - Indigenous Affairs Advisor Leanne Brooke to Co-Chair NBL’s Reconciliation working group

29th August 2020 - Netball Australia selects Stacey Marinkovich as new Diamonds Head Coach

28th August 2020 - Super Netball commits to matches in Cairns and Townsville

21st August 2020 - AFL will not use Aboriginal flag during Indigenous Round

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24th July 2020 - Netball Tasmania launches 2020 season

19th July 2020 - Interstate teams to relocate to Queensland for Super Netball competition

2nd July 2020 - RAC Arena reopens with exhibition netball game in front of a crowd

30th June 2020 - Netball Australia looks to secure 2027 Netball World Cup for Sydney

18th June 2020 - Netball Australia to join National Redress Scheme

31st May 2020 - Suncorp Super Netball announces details for 2020 season start

15th May 2020 - Netball Australia releases guidelines for safe return to community netball

13th May 2020 - Suncorp Super Netball advises clubs of no team training until 31st May

21st July 2019 - Evonne Goolagong Cawley launches National Indigenous Tennis Carnival in Darwin

29th May 2019 - ESSA launches Reconciliation Action Plan during National Reconciliation Week

10th July 2018 - Sports Commission acknowledges Indigenous Australians’ contribution to sport

17th February 2017 - Super Netball ready to build on growing interest in women’s sporting competitions

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7th November 2015 - Netball Australia launches inaugural Reconciliation Action Plan

29th May 2015 - Netball Australia commits to Reconciliation Action Plan

9th July 2012 - Sport unites during national reconciliation week

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