Regional | Aboriginal

International group wants indigenous player in Aussie netball squad by next World Cup

Australian Diamonds singing their national anthem in Sydney / Getty Images

A UK group empowering women in sports is pushing Netball Australia to select an indigenous player by the next Netball World Cup after reading a story broken by Te Ao Māori News.

Director and Communications Paul Reynolds of Women's Sports Network wrote to Netball Australia’s senior staff, including Coach Lisa Alexander, after reading a Te Ao Māori News story about the lack of diversity in their squad. Reynolds also encouraged the organisations to include indigenous translations in their sports manuals.

Another key strategy for his organisation is to see at least one indigenous player in the Australian squad. “Wouldn’t it be an awesome challenge for Australia to have a First Nation player in the team for that World Cup."

Women's Sports Network manual 'Netball Mojo' / Twitter

The not for profit organisation based in London are also working towards getting more African teams competing at the next Netball World Cup hosted in Cape Town, South Africa.

Last week, Te Ao Māori News broke the story of the Australian Coach Alexander calling for more women of colour in her squad.

“Our past in our connection with our indigenous sisters is definitely not where it should be,” Alexander says.

Alexander, a mother of three children of Aboriginal descent, says, “I’m a big supporter of us making sure to really embrace our indigenous population particularly in netball.”

The Te Ao Māori News story, which had more than 600 Facebook shares, also resonated with Aboriginal groups in Australia, who are desperate to see themselves represented in their national squad. The last First Nations woman to wear the gold and green bib was Sharon Finnan White, who played for Australia 20 years ago.

First Nations' advocate and Netball Australia board member Marcia Ella Duncan says the wait for another indigenous player has been too long.

“Part of any strategy moving forward has to make that unconscious bias conscious before we can start to take very effective steps to overcoming those barriers,” says Duncan.

Currently, the entire 13-women Diamonds squad are all white which is unlike other sporting codes in Australia, like rugby or league, whose teams reflect the country’s multi-cultural society. Even the Silver Ferns teams regularly have players who are Māori or Pacific Islander.

Netball NZ has already moved on to pathways to support Māori girls and boys playing the sport with the creation of a netball app in Te Reo Māori that contributes to the rich diversity in the sport.

NZ Labour MP and former Silver Fern Louisa Wall is among members behind Women in Sport Aotearoa, an initiative that ensures all women and girls gain equity of opportunity and to build careers in sport.

However, the Australian Diamonds current mascot of a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes is "not real" and excludes people like indigenous girls, and how they see themselves as netballers, she says.

Australian Diamonds Mascot / Getty Images