Callaghan District Netball Association (CDNA) has welcomed locals to its free, new inclusive netball program.
The first of eight clinic-style sessions targeted at disadvantaged youth took place last month.
This push for inclusivity in the sport comes after last year’s Super Netball competition’s Indigenous Round, in which the league’s only Indigenous player, Jemma Mi Mi, was left on the sidelines.
It sparked 20 national, state, and territory-based club bodies to sign a Declaration of Commitment to address under-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players at elite levels.
CDNA and IMB Bank Community Foundation partnered to organise their own inclusive program, which not only addresses inequality in sport, but also physical and mental health among local youth.
Importantly, there is currently an identified need to further support the development of sport in the area, based on the City of Newcastle’s Western Corridor Planning Project.
This estimates that people aged under 18 will make up 27.1% of the population by 2036 – of this, family households will make up around 81.6% of local living dwellings.
CDNA co-chair Renee Ridgeway says that, with so many youth calling Newcastle home, it’s important to ensure they’re getting out and exercising in a safe and fun way.
“If you look at the growth in the area, the available sporting facilities are often quite limited,” she said.
“This program allows local youth to participate in sport, while playing with other kids and making new friends.”
Renee explained that the program also goes beyond just the game of netball.
“Some of these kids have struggled to find a safe place to socialise and be active, often excluded based on their gender or background – but here they can feel welcome,” she said.
“And it’s about more than just the health benefits of exercising, the social and educational aspects are just as important for these kids.”
As well as providing a nurturing environment to play and learn, CDNA supports participants with netball essentials such as a ‘shoe pool’, which offers a pair of suitable running shoes to anyone in need.
The club also offers financial assistance to encourage more families to get on the court and join in, even outside of one-off clinics, according to Renee.
“We want to give every child a chance to participate, no matter their age, gender, or background,” she said.
“IMB’s support has covered a lot of the costs, so we’ll be able to continue using this equipment to run more netball skills clinics, umpiring courses, and physical and mental health lifestyle programs.”
This is good news for Maddison Ridgeway and Paikea Aoake Puru, who participated in both the netball and umpiring classes in the first session.
“We really liked making new friends and meeting more people interested in sport – we’re really trying to get to know more about everyone,” they said.
“We’re used to playing rep netball, but clinics like this are a fun way to get more people involved, even if they aren’t as familiar with the sport.”
Maddison and Paikea said they were extremely thankful to the committee for organising such an inclusive, fun event.
“It’s multicultural and we have both boys and girls here – plus you can participate without worrying about how much it costs.”
The pair especially liked the opening formalities, which featured a smoking ceremony, where Maddison delivered the welcome to country.
“That was amazing to learn more about Aboriginal culture,” they said.
“Afterwards, we learnt some new drills and practiced our ball work – it was great to make new friends through team building exercises, too.”
The CDNA team says it’s more than happy to continue taking on more participants for the program, and can also offer representative sport pathways for keen netballers.
Contact the committee via [email protected] if you’d like to get involved.