When you ask people to name some Blak women in sport they tend to use the same three names and talk in past tense. Is this the fault of the media? Is there enough representation of women in sport in general?
The Blak women we have gracing our screens in sport continue to be highlighted, for the most part, only through the Indigenous rounds and then, radio silence. We need to be talking about women and Blak women just as much as we do the male sports stars.
I am not saying that we are completely shunning women on purpose, I think there is a lack of representation in many sports of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sisters. Take Super Netball for example, we have Jemma Mi Mi who is currently the only active Indigenous player and prior to this, we have only had two Blak women play in the national team.
Tennis world No. 1 Ash Barty is the first Indigenous Australian woman in over 46 years to win the French Open after Evonne Goolagong Cawley, and still she isn’t getting the recognition she deserves. Perhaps tennis isn’t the most culturally immersive sport, but I believe there is no better time than now to change that.
Scholarship opportunities need to be given to more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids who want to go down professional sporting pathways. Tennis, cricket, netball, soccer — there are gaps there. There is a massive talent pool out there, especially with our Blak sisters, but they don’t have access to the opportunities that will propel them into sporting careers like their non-Indigenous counterparts do.
Grassroots organisations are where these opportunities start. A great example of this is the Moriarty Foundation and the work it does through the John Moriarty Football Program. Working at a grassroots level in Borroloola, Northern Territory, the deadly soccer player Shadeene Evans was given the opportunity to show the rest of Australia — and the world — what talent the Northern Territory holds.
She received a scholarship to Sydney which led to her being scouted to play for the Young Matildas and Sydney FC in the W-League. This is a similar story for Jada Whyman, who moved from Wagga Wagga to Sydney and is now the goalkeeper for Sydney FC in the W-League.
We need to celebrate these women alongside their fellow W-League players like Lydia Williams, Gema Simon and Kyah Simon who have all made significant achievements and been incredible role models for other young Blak women.
While the AFL and NRL seem like they’re trying the most to be more inclusive, I don’t believe I can say the same for highlighting Blak women in those leagues.
I do acknowledge, however, that the leagues say they are aiming to improve.
There needs to be more of a push to scout and give scholarships to our younger generations — our Blak sisters in particular. And there needs to be a bigger push in the media to shine the spotlight on Indigenous sportswomen.
Women in sport deserve just as much recognition as men in sport and it’s time to educate ourselves on more of the Blak sisters and brothers who are currently killing it in the game.
By Teisha Cloos