RAC’s Sports Star Award finalists have been announced, with a local initiative being recognised for its life-transforming results.
Esperance Netball Association Diamonds team coach Julie Hawke has been nominated for the RAC Insurance Beyond Sport Award.
Mrs Hawke started the Indigenous Leadership Netball Program in 2015
The program began with nine Esperance Senior High School Year 8 girls who had high rates of truancy and suspension.
Mrs Hawke negotiated with the Esperance Netball Association to include the team in the association.
“The association worked with me to make that happen and we accessed the KidSport funding to help some of the girls register, who wouldn't usually be able to afford to play sport,” Mrs Hawke said.
“Every single one of the girls who started off in the program had not played netball before, and every single one of the girls were not at the time participating in any sport.”
Mrs Hawke said the program saw “instant results”, with no suspensions and markedly improved attendance.
In 2016, the program was expanded to include two year levels at the school.
Mrs Hawke said by the end of the program’s second year, relationships with families, the netball association and the love the girls had for the program was so strong, they recognised the program needed to grow.
“We talked to Role Models and Leaders Australia who operate the Girls Academy Program and we looked for corporate sponsorship, which we got from IGO,” she said.
“The Girls Academy agreed and we now have a Girls Academy at Esperance Senior High School.”
Mrs Hawke said the netball program came under the umbrella of Girls Academy in April 2017.
This allowed older sisters, aunties, mothers and other family members to be engaged as volunteers.
The Diamonds reached the Esperance Netball Association final in 2018 and had four players selected to represent the region at the Cadet Cup in October 2018.
Mrs Hawke said assistant coach Giana Adams had done great work as a role model for the girls.
“By the end on the 2018 season I was stepping back and Giana was coaching the girls,” she said.
Mrs Hawke said there was strong evidence that young people who were participating in team sport had better outcomes at school.
“It’s such a powerful thing, young women coming together and making a time and a place safe for everyone,” she said.
“Combining sport with school, and then that strong link with the wider community, makes them feel like they are contributing, belong and loved for the unique individuals they are.”
Mrs Hawke said a strong partnership between the Girls Academy and the Esperance Netball Association had been critical to the program’s success.