How a former Diamond plans to see more Indigenous netballers at the elite level

It's been 21 years since an Indigenous netballer played for the Australian Diamonds.

Key points:

  • Sharon Finnan-White was the last Indigenous player selected into the Australian Diamonds side, 21 years ago
  • The now 54-year-old hopes to see an All-Indigenous side in the national competition within the next five years
  • Currently, the first Indigenous Diamonds Pathway Program consists of 15 athletes 

The last representative was Sharon Finnan-White, one of only two Indigenous players to ever wear the green and gold.

"I've heard lots of stories of unconscious bias, and bias against our players when they go and stand for selection at that representative level within associations," Finnan-White said.

"Lots of stories of racism.

"That kind of environment is not welcoming for anyone, let alone our own people, so it does turn a lot of our players away."

Netball Australia recognised the sport has fallen short, and when the only Indigenous player in the Super Netball, Jemma Mi Mi, was left off the court during the 2020 Indigenous round, the national body was forced to act.

Jemma Mi Mi, middle, was left on the bench for the entire match, during Queensland Firebirds' Indigenous round victory over Melbourne Vixens in 2020.(Getty: Albert Perez)

A Declaration of Commitment was signed by 20 of the sport's peak bodies, who remain committed to making a change and breaking down the barriers to better understand Indigenous people and get them more involved in the game.

Creating a pathway for young, Indigenous netballers   

The result of this on-court controversy fostered a relationship between Finnan-White and Aunty Roma Pregarc, who is based in Brisbane.

They collaborated to develop an "Indigenous Diamonds Pathway Program" in Queensland, mentoring young, promising talent.

Sharon Finnan-White and Aunty Roma Pregarc want to see more Indigenous players in the Super Netball.(Supplied: Sharon Finnan-White )

The inaugural squad is comprised of more than a dozen young netballers from Alice Springs to Palm Island, training in Townsville three times a week, ahead of their debut in a local premiership league next season.

Kyanne Priestley took four flights over two days to travel from her home in Alice Springs just to make pre-season training.

The 16-year-old is currently looking at boarding schools in Townsville to continue being a part of the program.

"I feel like a lot of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander girls get overlooked, so I feel like this is an opportunity for all of us girls to step up," Priestley said.

Teammate Tarna Stewart is a local from Townsville and said the first few weeks of training have already boosted her confidence.

From left, Jorja Triffet, Kyanne Priestley and Tarna Stewart are among the young netballers who are taking part in the Indigenous Diamonds Pathway Program.(ABC: Brittney Kleyn)

"Ever since I was six, I don't see as [many] Indigenous people playing [Super Netball]," the now 16-year-old said.

Her mother, Naomi Stanley, has seen the benefits firsthand.

"Sharon's been a great role model for them, letting them know where to go from here and where to go, move up, more forward," Naomi Stanley said.

Culturally safe environments for Indigenous players

Finnan-White and Aunty Roma's aim is to not only offer Indigenous players elite coaching, but also to do so in a culturally safe environment.

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The former Diamond fears Indigenous netballers aren't progressing to elite levels for several reasons, including intergenerational trauma.

"It is important for the netball community to understand the historic events that caused this trauma and how it deeply affects every aspect of our lives," Finnan-White said.

An All-Indigenous side in the Super Netball

Finnan-White has set an ambitious goal, to foster enough talent for an All-Indigenous team in the Super Netball within the next five years.

Early conversations have taken place with stakeholders, but the former Diamond said systemic change and funding is needed to make her dreams become reality.

"We'd like that team to be based here in North Queensland because we have a lot of deep of talent to draw from in this region," she said.

"I think just putting it out there and laying it on the table, we're hoping that someone will join us on this journey and help us to create a legacy."


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