In a significant move, a group of netball’s peak bodies have committed to taking action on the underrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players at elite levels in the sport.
The move comes after the Queensland Firebirds chose not to play the only Indigenous player currently in Super Netball, Jemma Mi Mi, in Indigenous Round, despite the league specifically using her for promotion in the lead up.
Twenty club bodies from the national, state and territory level have signed a new ‘declaration of commitment’, pledging to understand and address the barriers that prevent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, coaches, umpires and administrators from thriving in netball.
The declaration, released on Tuesday, marks the first time peak netball bodies have uniformly responded to the issue of Indigenous representation in the sport.
“We know it is unacceptable to have only one Aboriginal player within the Suncorp Super Netball league,” the declaration states.
“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.”
There is also an acknowledgment that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation rates at the community and state level are not translating into the current elite pathways. This is evidenced by the fact that Super Netball only has one Indigenous player.
Marcia Ella-Duncan and Sharon Finnan-White, the only two Indigenous players to have ever played in Australia’s national team, will take on leadership roles in developing a framework that will help the sport deliver lasting change.
According to Netball Australia, the early phases of the commitment will focus on understanding the experiences of Indigenous people within netball’s systems, and then creating ‘change plans’ to address the barriers that currently prevent higher participation at the elite level.
The tracking and reporting of any progress and challenges will be a cornerstone of the approach taken.
The findings of the State of the Game Review, chaired by Liz Ellis, will be delivered in October this year. These findings will play a role in developing a national strategy and targets, set to be announced in April 2021.
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