Being Indigenous means that you are of this land and from this land, and native to it. To me, Indigenous Round is about a sense of pride and recognition of culture, it’s a unifying opportunity. It’s beautiful. (Danny Dalton, Gomeroi Nation. Netball Scoop photographer)
While Australia’s First Nations’ people should be included and supported in netball all year round, Indigenous Rounds are a way of celebrating and highlighting their culture and heritage.
In this special Netball Scoop edition, we share some incredible imagery, and look at the meanings behind the dresses, the much needed initiatives that each state and territory are developing to include First Nations’ people, and some Indigenous All-Stars imagery.
Please make sure you scroll to the end, to read the fascinating insights of four people who are working within the sport, including the coach and the MVP of the All-Stars’ Indigenous team, and to access a resource guide.
BEFORE THE GAME
Each match in Rounds 5 and 6 featured it’s own unique approach to Indigenous Round. From smoking ceremonies to dance, Welcome to Country, and an exchange of traditional gifts, the events were meaningful, powerful and moving.
“To have a visual representation of Indigenous culture on court, people are reacting to the design, asking questions and wanting to learn more. So it’s a very positive conversation and starting to educate people.” (Sarah Last, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Netball Victoria)
First Nations’ people have a powerful history of oral storytelling, dance and artwork, and their connection to country is unparalleled. And so, the uniforms worn by each team during Indigenous Rounds are more than “just” artwork. They are a powerful representation of the stories behind the artist, the traditional custodians, the team, the land, waters, flora and fauna. There is so much detail to be appreciated, and so some of the highlights of each uniform are outlined below.
The dress was designed by Shane Mankitya Cook, in conjunction with students from Netball South Australia’s Aboriginal Netball Academy. The students created artwork depicting what netball meant to them and its role in their community, from which talking points Mr Cook created his design.
The dress features pink and red to represent the links to the Thunderbirds and Netball SA respectively. The tree is symbolic of life, with the roots showing the connection to grassroots netball, while elite netball is represented by its leaves.
One of the key design elements is the handprint of Mahleaha Buckskin, the first person to be raised speaking the Kaurna language in over 100 years, and the words “Wikaparntu Paitya” which translates to “Netball is deadly.”
The Magpies dress was created by Mr Dixon Patten, a Yorta Yorta and Gunnai man.
It’s striking depiction of Magpies in flight represents new heights and possibilities being reached. Magpies nurture their young, a role similar to tribal Elders, who connect stories, songs and land for their people and community.
The background features gum leaves, which are very important to the Wurundjeri people, who live on the Kulin Nation land where Collingwood is located. The leaves demonstrate the possibility of cultural and personal growth, and play an important role in Welcome to Country and other cultural ceremonies.
The dress was designed by Krystal Dallinger of the Gamilaroi nation, who has designed the GIANTS’ Indigenous uniform for the past four years. A circle is featured on the back of the dress, signifying a meeting place for a team that comes together from different places, and join together to play netball.
GIANTS are one of two teams who permanently incorporate Indigenous artwork into their playing dress.
Tammy-Lee Atkinson, a Yorta-Yorta woman, designed a dress that features Victorian netball returning to the court in 2021, and the Vixens returning to play in Melbourne. The waterways are connecting lakes, rivers and oceans, representing the connection of family, sport, and coming together.
The waterways meet at each of the Vixens’ four core values, and women can be seen around each value, depicting the gathering of the athletes and staff. The circles on the side panels represent the rivers that connect to Echuca where Ms Atkinson was born.
Tarsha Hawley, a Swifts Academy athlete and Wongiabon woman created the Swifts uniform. The most striking feature is the circular bibs, a meeting place for the 10 women around it which represent the Swifts. Each of the women are connected by lines of different lengths, representing their unique journey to the team.
A crow – totem of the Wongiabon – sits over the Aboriginal flag, which Ms Hawley says embraces where she’s come from and who she is. The water holes represent her roots, hand prints the young people who will play netball in the future, and the fish is symbolic of the Wann Clan tribe – the traditional owners of the land that the Sydney Swifts are located on.
Goreng Goreng woman, Rachael Sarra, created the artwork on the Firebirds Indigenous and home and away dresses. The design is called Uniting Flames, and represents more than the seven athletes who take the court. Every step or pass is ignited by people who show support, and the people who’ve previously represented the Firebirds. It shows strength in diversity that drives unity. One of the most beautiful aspects is that each pass connects different stories and identities, and like the aftermath of fire, new growth is created.
The Firebirds game day shoes were hand painted by Aunty Hazel, who is Jemma Mi Mi’s aunt.
Sunshine Coast Lightning
Kabi Kabi Elder, Aunty Hope O’Chin is the creative mind behind the Lightning’s dress. Like all of the uniforms, there are many elements that are not noticeable at first glance. On the back of the dress are animals representing the saltwater dreaming, with a background that demonstrates the inclusiveness and diversity of First Nations people that contribute to Lightning’s identity. Animals on the front of the dress are from the land and fresh waters of the Sunshine Coast, while a lightning bolt is cradled within a coolamon. This traditional vessel was used by women to carry babies, water, food and also for digging, and is an important link to women who play netball.
West Coast Fever
Well known Noongar artists Peter Farmer and Kylie Graham have designed a dress with seven circular symbols representing the players on court coming together. They are connected by the unpredictable movement of water through the landscape. The Shooting Stars also customised each athlete’s playing shoes with artwork.
Fever was the first Suncorp Super Netball franchise to incorporate Indigenous artwork as a permanent feature of it’s home and away dresses, along with training kits.
Shown on the ball is Winyar Mugadjina, or Women’s Track of Foot. The artwork was created by Simone Thomson, of the Yorta-Yorta/Wurundjeri people.
The umpires also wore a specially designed top
INITIATIVES WITHIN THE AUSTRALIAN NETBALL COMMUNITY
It speaks to addressing one of the questions that is often put to me as the coach of a pathway, of why only Jemma (Mi Mi) in the pathway. That’s a huge burden for Jemma to carry, she should never be carrying as an athlete.
I say to people there are actually quite a few girls in the pathway, and it’s about giving them the platform, raising their profile and giving them that acknowledgement – we see you, we acknowledge you and we celebrate you for sticking in there and doing the hard yards. (Ali Tucker-Munro, Kamilaroi Nation, Head Coach of Giants Academy, Assistant coach of State Team, Coach of Indigenous All Stars team)
If there was one thing that 2020 showed the netball world, it was that far greater commitment was needed to be a more culturally inclusive sport, with particular emphasis on supporting Australia’s First Nations’ people.
A Declaration of Commitment was signed by 20 organisations within the Australian netball community stating they would:
“commit to the change required to increase participation in netball’s performance pathway for Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander players, coaches, umpires and administrators. Change that will only be achieved in true partnership with Netball’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities”.
The State of the Game review, overseen by Liz Ellis, went one step further, noting:
Whilst the Declaration of Commitment relates to increasing the representation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander athletes in netball’s representative pathways and high performance programmes, it will be a hollow, tokenistic commitment if Australian netball cannot attract and retain Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander girls and women to participate in grassroots netball, driven by strong relationships forged by the communities and netball associations across this country.
A steering committee has been formed to help drive long term, sustainable change. It includes Stacey Campton (chair), Sharon Finnan-White, Josie Janz-Dawson, Ali Tucker-Munro, Marj Kerslake and Aunty Roma Pregarc.
STATE AND TERRITORY LEVEL
While there are too many grass roots carnivals, clubs and community groups to list, outlined below is a summary of the major events and initiatives at state and territory level.
Netball WA Western Australia leads the nation in providing diverse netball opportunities for Indigenous people, with specifically organised events happening over the last 18 years.
Netball WA’s flagship programme, Shooting Stars, uses netball and other modalities to improve educational outcomes, and is currently mentoring 350 students. The programme also offers leadership roles, with 85% of the staff and 66% of the board members Indigenous women.
There are also a variety of carnivals for Indigenous athletes to compete in, including:
NAIDOC carnivals – the events are based in Perth and the North-West, and have been running for 18 years. It is the biggest NAIDOC sporting event in Australia, and has 11 divisions running from Net Set Go through to mixed and masters teams.
Aboriginal Youth Gala Day – grassroots teams from across Western Australia compete from ages 10 to 18. The Gala has been running for 13 years.
Multicultural Carnival – each team must have at least five members on court who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or who have a parent born overseas. The programme, which has been running for seven years, has over 60 different nationalities involved.
The Wirrpanda Foundation (created by former West Coast Eagle David Wirrpanda) operates the Deadly Sista Girlz programme. Originally based in WA, it now operates out of 17 sites, and has mentored 4000 disadvantaged Indigenous girls to date.
100% of the mentors are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and they focus on their students developing a healthy lifestyle, through building confidence, pride in their identity, relationships based on respect, and yarning about a range of topics including women’s health, financial literacy, road safety.
Netball Queensland operates the Diamond Spirit programme, which commenced in 2017. 2500 students in remote and regional communities have accessed netball clinics and inter-community carnivals It’s three pillars include Engage – netball delivered at primary school level in remote communities, Empower – netball programmes and employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and Educate – with 500 high school students currently mentored to foster their personal growth and education.
Since it’s inception four years ago, Sunshine Coast Lightning have operated the First Nations Local Leaders, as part of the Confident Girls programme. It promotes healthy living and resilience.
Netball Northern Territory operates an Indigenous netball carnival, and also provides coaching opportunities in remote areas.
In the last year, there have been 12 remote community visits, each lasting for a week, with a strong focus on netball and education.
The annual Indigenous Carnival is a highlight of the calendar, and while Covid impacted this year (remote communities were unable to send teams), 12 teams participated.
Through Netball Queensland, NNT were able to invite four young Indigenous women to the Diamond Spirit Leadership Camp in Queensland.
Netball South Australia is involved with the SAASTA (South Australia Aboriginal Secondary Training Academy). It’s Aboriginal Netball Academy provides a weekly programme that mentors students through education and netball development. Over the past six years, Year 10, 11 and 12 students are engaged with educational topics and a coaching programme. This year has seen 21 students participate, enjoying cultural awareness training, artwork, dance, language and heritage workshops.
There are also a number of rural Indigenous carnivals, while WA’s Shooting Stars has now diversified, and is trialling a programme in Whyalla, South Australia.
Two netball clubs run by Aboriginal groups work within the community. Nunga Netball Organisation and Kaleteeya Netball Club provide a culturally safe space for Indigenous participants, and Nunga has an annual junior carnival
Netball Victoria has an Indigenous Pathways working group in place, which is taking action across a range of fronts. Ambassadors are increasing partnerships between NVic and Indigenous communities, which includes work being done at grassroots and pathway levels. This includes talent identifying athletes who are taking part in a programme delivered by Sharon Finnan-White, and who will be provided with ongoing support.
The annual Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association LTD (VACSAL) carnival is supported through administration, coaching and umpiring, while the Melbourne Vixens support the Korin Gamadji Institute’s (KGI) Lagunta Sisters Netball team. This promotes leadership and professional development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women aged 13 to 17.
There are also a variety of Indigenous clinics in metro and regional Victoria, linking in to VACSAL.
The Collingwood Football Club operates the Barrawam Programme, to support and provide opportunities for First Nations’ people.
Netball New South Wales
The Premier League’s Indigenous Round was a time for respect and reflection, which included a smoking ceremony and presentation of dresses to the Inaugural Indigenous All Star team. The All Stars played the Giants Academy as a curtain raiser before the GIANTS/Swifts match, and also featured two Indigenous umpires, Jordan Kiss and Mark Munnich. For thoughts on the match by athlete Emma Smith, please go to the “profile” section
For several years an Indigenous Talent Camp for 12 and 13 year olds has occurred, giving confidence and skill for athletes to then enter the regional Academy system. NNSW also runs a series of Gala Days, of which the most significant is Koori Gala Day.
A one day camp supporting athletes, coaches and umpires is led by Indigenous coaches including Ali Tucker-Munro, Sharon Finnan-White, Beryl Friday, and Beryl’s mum who spoke to parents and family groups about what an elite journey looks like.
A very significant e-learning package is being created for coaches, to help them create a safer learning environment for Indigenous athletes. Marcia Ella-Duncan has also helped to establish Coaching Unlimited, a programme to address a lack of sports’ coaching for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Netball Australian Capital Territory
During Reconciliation Week, local women designed painted netballs, post pads and umpire shirts, while matches featured gifts and a Welcome to Country.
The Capital Spirit, who play in the NSW Premier League, enjoyed a cultural awareness day. First Nations’ women who play in the team designed the Indigenous dress, and gave their insights about the totems and meanings behind the dress. The Spirit, who wore the dress to play in, are hoping to make it a permanent feature.
During an Indigenous Focus Round, a range of activities highlighted the visibility of Indigenous culture, including an Elder speaking about the history of the region. Palawa Kani is the only remaining Indigenous language in Tasmania, and was used in the Welcome to Country.
School sport and Net Set Go programmes are integrating Indigenous athletes, including integrating traditional games that recognise and connect with how young Aboriginal children played in the past.
And now meet four people who have combined their Indigenous heritage with their passion for netball.
DANNY DALTON (Gomeroi Nation, Netball Scoop photographer)
For Danny Dalton, Indigenous Round is the perfect meeting point for his heritage, and HIS passions for netball, umpiring and photography. As a child in a close knit family, netball was always part of Danny’s life. He watched as his mother played and coached his sisters, and was part of a family social netball team.
Danny’s maternal family were Gomeroi people from Moree, but unfortunately his grandmother passed away when his mother was just 13. The chain of oral storytelling history was broken, and Danny said, “A lot of our heritage was lost. We had kept strong links with the community however, so we adapted to that, and it became more than just about our family line. So what you lose in some respects, you gain in others.”
What does your Indigenous heritage mean to you?
“It’s understanding that this country has a history that goes longer than invasion and settlement, and you have a connection to the oldest continuing culture. It makes you really proud of our whole history, not just parts of it. When you embrace the nation we live in, in all it’s glory, and know that you are part of it’s history, it makes you feel even more strongly connected to the land.
“However, I also believe immigrants are still a beautiful part of our country’s history. All history is important to this country, and when you embrace all of it, you are never cutting yourself off from that history. It’s showing a depth to cultural story telling, and it can have a contemporary focus. It doesn’t always have to have a link to the past, it can have a connection to the now.”
With the break in your oral history, how have you learned about your culture, and how can you pass that on to future generations?
“It’s an ongoing process, and it’s on you to keep learning about your heritage. Oral history is perhaps the most powerful way to keep history and families and stories alive.
“However, connection generationally is different in this tech savvy world. It’s hard for oral histories to compete with that. We’ve made sure in our family that we lead by example, and we show our pride. We discuss where we’ve come from, we will visit, and we will tell the stories of lessons learned. I try to continue conversations with young people, giving context to subjects they are interested in.
“Through talking about my culture, it opens the door to conversations about their culture, or gives them another perspective which is the traditional Aboriginal culture.”
What is the intersection between netball and your heritage?
“I found a connection in being a volunteer and going away to umpire representative carnivals. Then later I was able to marry those two with my camera, as I had a bit of understanding of how the sport was controlled, anticipating what was going to happen, and read where the ball was going to go.
“It was a way for me to give back to a sport that has filled many of my lifetime memories, because netball was such a joy for our family.”
And your connection to the Koori Games?
“Culturally, I’ve gone on to umpire and assist with the Koori Games. That for me was the collision of everything that I love. It just fills me with so much pride, and it’s the highlight of the year for me.
“When you think about it, the Koori Games is like the old ways of corroboree. People get together, celebrate things that unite you, and the cultural context is you are all passionate about Aboriginal people in sport. People will play with their mob, or where they’re from geographically. And that’s the corroboree aspect – getting your mob and coming together. It’s such an important environment.”
SARAH LAST (Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Netball Victoria)
Sarah Last is one of two Diversity and Inclusion Coordinators at Netball Victoria, working with multicultural and Indigenous communities. She’d played sport her whole life, first netball as a country girl growing up in Wedderburn, and later as an AFL draftee to Carlton. Sarah said, “Sport has opened up so many opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have imagined, and it gives you the confidence of knowing where you belong. I also have that passion and desire to help others, so to have the opportunity through Netball Victoria has been very important to me.”
When Sarah started the role, she hadn’t specifically worked with Indigenous communities before, but through learning about her own heritage, building a connection was very important to her. She explained, “My Aboriginal heritage comes from my mum’s grandfather, Captain Paddy Hogg. He was orphaned and fostered by a riverboat family in Echuca. There’s a lot we don’t know about him, we are currently exploring that, but it’s a slow process.”
Working closely with Victoria’s Indigenous communities has given Sarah a deeper appreciation for her ancestors’ and especially her grandmother Mavis, Paddy’s daughter. To have a deeper understanding of our family and what they have experienced has inspired me to learn more.”
One of Sarah’s biggest challenges when she started the role, was wanting to be respectful and appropriate to Indigenous people, given her limited knowledge of her own family heritage. “I didn’t want to say or do the wrong thing. I have learned though, particularly from the Indigenous artists that I’ve been working with, that if you don’t ask, you don’t know or learn. What the artists have shared with me is that everyone is on a different journey, and, ‘Don’t be afraid of saying the wrong thing, because if you don’t say anything at all, that gives a bigger message than not being open.’”
“There is so much to learn, but rather than being overwhelmed by what I don’t know, I’m trying to focus on what I’ve learned, and to reach out to people and make those connections. Netball doesn’t yet have the Indigenous representation that it should, but we are improving which is positive.
Emma Smith (Wonnarua woman, Indigenous All Stars team)
By Andrew Kennedy
Emma Smith at goal keeper was one of the dominant players for the Indigenous All-Stars. At seventeen and still completing year twelve, she plays in the under 23 team for Sutherland Stingrays, and is also a member of the QBE Swifts Academy.
“My main goal [today] was to show the talent that we all have, to make people proud… I think we all [All Stars] decided that we’re going out for our people and for our ancestors, and the young girls growing up, so I think we all went out there with a different mindset, let’s try to show them and let’s make our community proud.”
Smith is a proud Wonnarua woman from the Singleton region of New South Wales, and now lives in Sutherland Shire. She says the team had limited familiarity with each other, and even less training time building up to this special match. “We had a dress presentation and we got to know each other, and where each other’s mobs are from, but that was about it. It was a good effort, considering we didn’t train at all together. A few of the other players I’ve played Premier League with before, but no, we haven’t really played together at all.”
There was a great deal of excitement and pride about the opportunity to inspire young Indigenous girls to play sport. Smith said, “It’s a great opportunity, you get to do teams like this, meet new friends, and be surrounded by such great people. It’s good for your mind, and everything [else]. Today was an opportunity to get around, play with the girls, and show young Indigenous girls what’s possible, that there are pathways there, and this is a great team to aim for.”
Smith knows very well the value of female role models from her culture in encouraging her to pursue elite netball. “Ali Tucker-Morgan, she’s been a coach who’s always amazing, and I’ve definitely looked up to her, she’s such a great coach and amazing woman. So it’s great to be around her and put in an atmosphere where she can coach us, and give us so much knowledge and inspire us to chase our dreams. I also think Jemma Mi Mi is a great inspiration, and people like Beryl Friday – just growing up and being around and seeing those girls inspires me to one day play SSN and join [them].”
ALI TUCKER-MUNRO (Kamilaroi Nation, Head Coach of Giants Academy, Assistant coach of State Team, Coach of Indigenous All Stars team)
As a former elite athlete and now a coach, Ali Tucker-Munro knows all too well the loneliness of the high performance pathways for Indigenous women. The All Stars Indigenous team, which played the GIANTS Academy team as a Suncorp Super Netball curtain raiser in Round 6, is her brain child. She wanted to find a way for Indigenous athletes to connect, and feel supported in a culturally safe environment.
How do you create a culturally safe environment for athletes?
“What is important is asking the questions of First Nations people as part of that conversation. In designing any programme it’s about having genuine engagement with the community, because the community knows best. That’s tailoring it locally, because what happens over there in WA is going to be very different from what happens in my space over here.
“It’s also then around giving the athletes space to do that, and having people around them who have the cultural awareness and competency as part of their role and involvement in this space…It’s okay that you don’t know, I’m happy to answer questions, as long as it’s done in a respectful manner.
“I can really share and guide and shape some of those conversations of how to manage some of those cultural expectations and obligations that we come into a room with.
“When we walk into a room we don’t just come with ourselves, we have our community and our families on our shoulders. So by default we are sometimes seen to be leaders, and sometimes that doesn’t quite fit well with some of these kids because they are babies. They are at different points of their journeys. That is also critical. All of us have very different lived experiences and also are on different cultural journeys and that’s okay.
“Whilst that environment is really driven by First Nations’ people, it’s that wraparound support structure that our sport can facilitate. It’s about being authentic, and it’s about being collaborative.”
With so few Indigenous role models in netball, how can you be supported so that you don’t suffer cultural fatigue?
“Inadvertently, people don’t recognise that they do put that expectation on us. The burden that is placed on players, even someone like Jemma Mi Mi – there’s a burden that she carries. I am clear to people that my experiences as a proud Kamilaroi woman is very different to anyone elses. I don’t speak for any other community, I don’t speak for anyone else. That’s really important.
“It’s about how do we weave organisations into our business as usual models. That’s one of the challenges we have as a sport. I’m really pushing in my own state this add on way of thinking, how do we support our women and girls. We need to really think about fundamental change, architectural change around the funding models in our space, because it’s too reliant on grants.
“The second part of that is how we can leverage from programmes that are vehicles for our women and girls to have some positive outcomes in our communities. There’s great stuff that universities do – how can we harness that? Is there opportunity to certify some of these coaches?
“We work with Netball NSW where we bring in coaches at that level, in a culturally safe space. We set the tone for the First nations women and girls in that room. Because we recognise that if we have coaches in that pathway, it means that the girls can see themselves in the coaches around them, and they’re more comfortable when they’re being challenged to go to someone and have those difficult conversations which occur with any elite athlete.
“It’s also understanding some of the kinship responsibilities a lot of our girls have. I know I had that as a player. People don’t realise that they’ve been up all night helping mum with the little ones. There’s an expectation that they’ve got to go and help Aunty or Nan. The girls are not rocking up to training because they’re lazy or not interested, it’s because they’re exhausted.
“But we don’t ask those questions. Having coaches in that space to help spark those conversation becomes really important because it reduces the athlete’s need to do that. It’s not their role. But I’m happy to play that role. Does it come with some level of cultural fatigue. Yes it does, but I’m happy to play that role.”
If you are interesting in learning more about First Nations’ history, culture and heritage, please find some useful resources below. A good starting point is to identify which land you are on.
What land you are on
Resource guide for history, culture, heritage and language.
Netball’s declaration of commitment
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY
Netball Scoop acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live. We recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community, and we pay respect to the Elders past, present and emerging.