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On 21st November 2014 the National Sport Inclusion Alliance held a Network Forum at the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne. “It was with great pleasure that Tennis Australia were able to host the recent NSIA Forum.  Having 17 sports represented at the Forum is an indication of the commitment from all our sports that we will continue to be inclusive of everyone in our community,” said Tennis Australia’s Brenda Tierney.

It was fantastic to see representatives from such a range of National Sport Organisations in attendance on the day, a clear demonstration by the sector that inclusion in sport is important and that it is at the forefront in the minds of those planning for the future of their sport.

The event began with a networking lunch, generously supplied by Tennis Australia. The official proceedings then began, with the opening presentation delivered by Swimming Australia’s Sport Inclusion and Pathways Coordinator Michael Woods. Michael highlighted Swimming Australia’s history in relation to its commitment to inclusion, outlining its Inclusion Checklist, a survey conducted of its clubs in 2010. He went on to share information about the Inclusive Club Standard Program and plans to address the Play by the Rules ‘7 pillars of inclusion’ in 2015. The second presentation was delivered by Robyn Tribe, Gymnastics Australia’s National Participation Manager. Robyn shared some valuable information about the sports Club 10 Quality Assurance program, its online resources and marketing portal and its highly effective National Inclusion Working Group. The final presentation was given by Andrew Hughes and Logan Whitaker from AFL. It was a great way to end the first session, leaving the audience with a clear example of what inclusion actually looks like in practice, by sharing a video captured during the 2014 AFL National Inclusion Carnival.

Following afternoon tea, Forum attendees were given a rare insight in to the impact that sport can have on the lives of people living with a disability through a question and answer session with two of our countries finest athletes – Renay Hall and Daynah Hopkins. Renay is a former international basketball player having competed for the Pearls, and now plays netball for her local team. Daynah is a cricket super star, and has just been named on the Australian team for the upcoming tri nations. Both athletes talked of their successes and challenges in sport, Renay saying “if didn’t play sport I would really miss all my friends” and Daynah commenting “playing sport makes me happy.”

The second half of the Forum provided attendees with the opportunity to break out in to groups and discuss challenges and barriers to inclusion. Each group, consisting of 4 to 6 National Sport Organisations, as well as an AUSRAPID Board member, a NSIA committee member and a representative from an AUSRAPID state/territory member organisation, had 45 minutes to discuss common areas of concern. Feedback from this session highlighted some common themes, including the ongoing challenge to create a whole of organisation approach to inclusion where inclusive practice is ingrained throughout the culture of an organisation. Other challenges included confidence about being inclusive at club/association level and awareness and education of parents, teachers and participants themselves. Funding and lack of time with multiple priorities also featured amongst the popular challenges to being inclusive.

The day was closed by NSIA Chairman Paul Fleay. “The conversation with sport at all levels is maturing. Sport are now starting to lead discussions on the benefits to individuals, community and to the sustainability of the sports themselves by being welcoming of all members of the community. I’m pleased and proud of the role the NSIA is playing in these conversations.”

The NSIA will consider all of the feedback gained from the forum, and use this information in 2015 to guide us in assisting the sport sector to become effectively inclusive of everyone, in all aspects of sport.

We are often told that one of the most beneficial aspects of functions such as this NSIA Forum is being given the opportunity to network with those who experience similar challenges and who can share relevant examples and stories of success. This recent forum certainly provided a great platform for networking and we look forward to hosting more events in 2015.

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Jenny Leach
NSIA Project Coordinator