A quest for diversity and inclusiveness in netball

In an effort to create a diverse and inclusive netball environment for all, Emily Higgins’ development of an All Abilities program has hit the mark at the East Brighton Vampires Netball Club (EBVNC) and Sandringham District Netball.

Higgins, who was rewarded for her efforts in last year’s Netball Victoria Community Awards, had developed a weekly All Abilities netball program 18 months ago, with the aim of encouraging and enabling children to play and enjoy netball in a safe and welcoming environment.

The program supports children with different disabilities, allowing them to stay active and to facilitate their progress into mainstream club teams, should they wish to play regularly.

“I started the All Abilities program because my son saw his sisters playing netball and wanted to join in but there was no team that could accommodate his requirements,” said Higgins.

“Now, there’s somewhere for him and kids like him, to enjoy netball and feel like they’re part of something.”

With two All Abilities programs in place, Higgins works with both adults in the adult learning centre and juniors who train as part of Sandringham’s representative program.

“Inclusion in netball is absolutely essential for kids and adults with a disability or learning need.

“To be taking part in community sport for their own health and wellbeing as well as their sense of self and sense of belonging, is crucial.”

“All the benefits that an individual reaps from playing netball should be the same benefits that those who have a disability experience. There should be no distinction between the two.”

Higgins hopes more associations and clubs recognise the need for these programs to ensure netball is accessible for all.

“All associations should look more closely at every player, not just the people with a diagnosis or disability. Anyone who needs that extra help or support should be getting it.”

“I don’t need to be nominated for what I’m doing, I believe it should be standard.

“It should be a given that we are including people with a disability, making programs and making them work, as it is a fundamental need.”