Netball is proud to be one of the major sports around Australia this week celebrating the outstanding contribution made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to our heritage.

It is fitting that during National Reconciliation Week, which runs until 3 June, Netball WA is celebrating the work it has done over the past decade in engaging indigenous communities through its varied programs in the sport of netball.

Netball WA’s vision is to have 10,000 indigenous participants involved with the sport by 2016.

On Monday night the West Coast Fever will play an indigenous-themed match in the ANZ Championship with their players wearing the specially designed dress created by local artists Peter Farmer and Kylie Graham.

Fever have already worn the dress once this season, against the Adelaide Thunderbirds earlier this month.

The top half of the dress has seven circles. These represent the seven players on a netball court, while the bottom half of the dress depicts 12 U-shaped symbols.

The `U’ is the symbol for female in Noongar culture and each ‘U’ represents a member of the Fever squad. The Noongar people live in the south-west corner of Western Australia and both artists hail from this region of the State.

The match is being played on Western Australia Day, in which the Indigenous culture and its communities play a significant role.

Netball WA is doing some great work in its Grassroots Program, which aims to provide opportunities to increase the numbers of Aboriginal women and girls in netball.

The program is conducted at seven sites, five of which are located in regional areas of the state:

Northam (NorthamYirra Djinda);
Mandurah (Mandurah Yirra Djinda);
Balga (Woola Woola Koolangkas);
Kwinana (Kwinana Djarlyn);
Katanning (Katanning All Stars);
Bunbury (Moorditj NyoongarYorgas);
Merredin (Merredin).
Netball WA General Manager of Community Netball Liz Booth says the support each Grassroots site receives from their local community has seen each location evolve.

“Some have moved on from being a pilot program and are now entering teams into their local associations,” she said.

Booth said the program doesn’t aim just to develop players but also coaches, umpires and volunteers and provide them with an opportunity to progress through the state’s pathway system. Grassroots2

One of the most popular tournaments introduced to the WA netball calendar has been the NAIDOC Netball Carnival, held in July, which attracts teams from communities right across the state.

A 17/U NAIDOC All-Stars Team is chosen at the end of the tournament and those athletes identified are then encouraged to try out for Western Australia’s 17/U and 19/U state teams.

It also offers them the opportunity for specialist coaching sessions and the chance to compete in other tournaments, such as the Regional Cadet Cup and Academy Cup.

Last year, as part of the NAIDOC carnival, health checks were offered and participants and spectators were encouraged to take home packs containing important health information. Booth said that would continue at this year’s carnival, with the support of many Aboriginal and Community health service providers.

Booth said there’s a fantastic atmosphere at the NAIDOC carnival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and has grown from 20 to 60 teams over that period.

“What we notice is there’s a real sense of community,” she said. “There’s parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends coming down and supporting their girls so NAIDOC is a huge day for everyone involved.”

This year’s NAIDOC carnival will also feature an ANZNetSetGO component, such is the popularity of the sport’s only introductory program.

Netball WA has recently secured funding from Department of Aboriginal Affairs to implement Youth Engagement Programs for Aboriginal girls aged between 12 and 17 in the remote communities of Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek.

As part of that program, on Monday night and at this weekend’s Smarter than Smoking Association Championships, the wider netball community is donating pre-loved and new sneakers to be distributed to participants throughout the program.

wapic2Netball WA has also been proactive in improving cultural awareness by holding a number of training sessions for staff and its wider netball community, including the netball associations where its Grassroots sites are based.

“I have been to all sessions so far and I’ve learnt something different at each one from all of our presenters, who have been absolutely fabulous,” Booth said.

West Coast Fever player Josie Janz has recently become one of five Australia-wide ambassadors for the Australia Post One Netball Community Program and that will complement the work already being done by Netball WA in extending the reach to new communities and participants.