UQ hosts Diamond Spirit camp to help empower young Indigenous netballers

2 June 2021

The University of Queensland welcomed senior high-school netballers from Ipswich, Darwin and Alice Springs as part of Netball Queensland’s Diamond Spirit program.

TOP: Robyn Donnelly and Emma Olssen from ATSIS Unit. BELOW: Camp participants

Diamond Spirit uses netball as a vehicle to empower Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander youth from remote and regional communities, while encouraging and rewarding healthy living and engagement in education.

UQ Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) Professor Bronwyn Fredericks said the Diamond Spirit program was a great Netball Queensland initiative because of its potential to inspire youth from communities across Australia to become future leaders and role models for their peers.

“We are proud to host Netball Queensland to inspire and educate our next generation of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community leaders through the positive example of sport and teamwork,” Professor Fredericks said.

The 14 high school netballers were involved in a leadership camp from Friday 28 May to Sunday 30 May at UQ’s St Lucia campus, where they stayed at International House.

Camp highlights included a leadership seminar led by Queensland Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson, one of several Firebirds players and extended squad members currently studying at UQ.

Participants enjoyed a training session and cultural games with members of the Firebirds, before watching the Queensland side take on the Melbourne Vixens as part of the Suncorp Super Netball Indigenous Round at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena. UQ hosted a contingent at the match, including a number of staff and community members.

The camp participants also engaged in a STEM workshop at the UQ-based Boeing Research and Technology Australia facility, took a tour of the St Lucia campus, spent time with UQ’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit and Outreach and Engagement team – during which they discussed study options at UQ – and played a friendly game of netball with UQ’s Goorie Berrimpa Student Collective.

During the game with the Goorie Berrimpa Student Collective, the students received a surprise visit from retired Firebirds and Australian Diamonds star Caitlyn Nevins.

Nevins spent time as a Diamond Spirit Ambassador during her Firebirds career and was excited to catch up with the students and former colleagues.

“Diamond Spirit provides the students with an opportunity to receive high-performance training and mentoring, while helping to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous players.” Nevins said.

“There are so many talented players, and Diamond Spirit is providing the platform to be able to uncover the next Australian Diamond.

“When chatting to some of the girls, I recognised a few players who have been involved for a number of years. They said themselves that they’re starting to become more confident and comfortable within this environment.

“It’s nice to see growth both on and off the court.”

Diamond Spirit and Inclusion Lead Chenoa Stockton said the organisation was grateful for the opportunity to continue providing support to young Indigenous people.

“We use a strengths-based model, specifically tailored to meet the needs of young Indigenous women and men, with the aim of promoting positive education, employment and life outcomes,” she said.

“We’re really proud that UQ was able to host our aspiring netballers to Brisbane – providing an opportunity for young people to participate in coaching and mentoring with our Firebirds players.”

Since 2017, more than 2500 students have had an opportunity to participate in the Diamond Spirit Program and 600 students have received direct support, ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across some of our most remote communities are afforded every possible opportunity on their learning journey.

UQ and Netball Queensland have an ongoing collaboration to promote higher education to women and girls through student placements, scholarships, research projects and community engagement.