Sport has long been recognised as a powerful vehicle to engage and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap Report 2013 acknowledged the importance of sports programs to Closing The Gap through its contribution to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Data from the most recent ABS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey showed that netball was the most popular sport for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls aged 4–14 years, with 13% of girls in that age group having participated in netball in some form in the previous 12 months.
With this evidence of a captive audience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls currently playing netball, an opportunity exists to further develop and continue this interest and involvement.
Initiatives of the RAP can enable this generation of players to build and create lifelong connections with the sport, as coaches, umpires, officials, volunteers, fans and advocates of netball.
Whilst ABS statistics reflect lower participation rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls as participants in sport when compared to non-Indigenous participants, this inequality is also reflected in coaching, umpiring, volunteering and employment rates across all sports. Whilst 65% of non-Indigenous Australians take part in sport and active recreation, participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is only 30.1%.
As was reflected in recommendations made by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in their 2013 ‘Sport – More than just a game’ Report, “…sporting bodies and organisations should develop a RAP which would greatly assist in increasing the participation rates of all Indigenous Australians into a variety of sports and recreation programs. The Committee considers sport to be a great leveller and that it can assist in bringing about reconciliation for all Australians”.