Supported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls across regional and remote Queensland through participation opportunities and educational support.
The Diamond Spirit program aims to improve equity in opportunities for physical activity, education and employment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls living in remote and regional communities.
At its highest level, the program has three pillars:
The engage pillar provides participation pathways for children living in remote communities. Programs are predominately delivered through local primary schools with a view of transitioning to after-school programs at local Police Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) centres. The aim of the engage pillar is to instil positive messages to students at a young age, focussing on the benefits of sport and physical activity with longer term benefits of improved physical literacy, health and well-being of students.
The empower pillar aims to build the capacity of communities to deliver ongoing netball programs through a tailored coach and officials development program, providing employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander women living in community.
The educate pillar employs full-time teachers who provide mentoring support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander female students in years 7 to 12, aiming to improve self-esteem, promote team work and develop collegiality. The educate pillar aims to contribute to improved health and well-being of students and long-term educational and employment outcomes.
Since 2017 we have focussed our Diamond Spirit program on Far North Queensland to ensure a sustainable model is developed, refined and researched before expanding the program further. Communities include Aurukun, Mapoon, Napranum and Yarrabah.
In 2018 we launched the educate pillar of Diamond Spirit at Cairns State High and Bremer State High, providing educational and mentoring support to 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from year 7 to 12.
One of the unique characteristics of Diamond Spirit educate has been the development of curriculum content that is embedded in existing school timetables. The four modules that the University of Queensland has developed are mapped to the Australian curriculum with a focus on emotional and cultural well-being. Netball is used as the vehicle to engage students in rich and meaningful conversations. Topics include:
The educate hubs also provide additional extracurricular activities to support cultural and emotional well-being including lunch time help hubs and weekly Powerful Young Women talks from prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. This provides a cultural connection for students and motivation to be the best they can be.
Central to the success of Diamond Spirt is developing effective partnerships. The following partners have provided significant contribution to the initial success of Diamond Spirt over the past two years and will remain key partners in future program development:
In 2013, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs tabled its report on the inquiry into the contribution of sport to Indigenous well-being and mentoring.
Titled Sport – More than Just A Game, this report clearly identified the need for programs that focus on the engagement of Indigenous women and that address the cultural and gender barriers which lead to significantly lower participation rates.
The committee stated that it was concerned with “the gender imbalance for participation in sports within the Indigenous communities”. The committee encouraged “all sporting groups and organisations to assess what can be done to improve the participation of Indigenous women in sport”.
Honorary Visiting Fellow at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Professor Colin Tatz also emphasised his concern with this disparity of funds being spent on Indigenous men and women in sport telling the committee in the public hearings phase:
there is gross disparity not only in the minds of sporting bodies but in the minds of Aboriginal communities that sport is for men and it is the footy that is the big deal, not the netball, not the basketball, not the hockey and the various other games that women can participate in.
To that end, Netball Queensland through the Diamond Spirit is committed to striving towards genuine change. The program’s guiding principles outline our mission to transform lives through netball.
We developed the program after significant consultation which identified gaps in programs specifically targeting women and girls and gross disparity in funding.
Our Diamond Spirit Educate Hubs continued to evolve and in 2019 we were excited to receive positive feedback from Education Queensland following an external review of Indigenous program for girls. Diamond Spirit ranked highly in the areas of school attendance, behavioural and academic outcomes, resulting in +7.7% school attendance, 17.5% improvement in behavioural absences and 4.4% improvement in academic outcomes (student receiving a C or better).
We also partnered with the University of Queensland to develop unique curriculum content which focusses on social, emotional and cultural wellbeing and currently embarking on further research and a Youth Ambassador Program which will engage our youth in future program design.
Our community engagement has created more opportunities for players entering the Netball Queensland performance pathways with +4% growth in players attending our emerging talent program to 7.9% in 2019 and our overall grassroot participation rates continue to show steady growth.
In 2019 we increased the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees in the Diamond Spirit program and appointed our first Torres Strait Islander teacher into the Educate Hub at Bremer State High.
Student reflection about being a Diamond Spirit student 2019 – Cairns State High
I am engaged with improving myself, bettering my education and achieving my goals. This year I have had more self-control in class and have not disrupted other people, this has caused me to be more engaged in learning
Netball Queensland's Diamond Spirit program was the 2019 Play by the Rules Award winner for State Associations.