Basketball ACT CEO David Simpson said that after seven months looking into claims that the Winnunga Warriors Basketball Club’s under-14 girls team was the target of racial slurs during a game in July last year, the independent investigator was satisfied a racial slur was used by an unknown person or persons during the match. However, there was insufficient proof to determine who made the alleged racial slur and which player or players were targeted.
While the investigation was inconclusive, former professional player, coach of the Canberra Cannons and National Basketball League hall of fame member Cal Bruton said Basketball ACT had gone to great lengths to make inclusion a key part of the sport.
Following what he called an “uncomfortable coffee” with Mr Simpson, the organisation appointed the first full-time youth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander development officer in Australia, and an Indigenous assistant on a casual basis.
“I think Basketball ACT has gone a step further by employing these two kids, so I now have a lot more respect for where they were and where they are now,” Mr Bruton told Region Media, who this year received an Order of Australia Medal for his service to basketball as a player, coach and for his service to disadvantaged youth and indigenous communities.
The two development officers, Lachlan Mayo and Elijah Duke, will run programs to encourage more Indigenous youngsters to play basketball in Canberra while educating clubs on how to deal with racism.
“I hope this is the beginning of something special in the sense that these two will open the door for many others. Hopefully, the support that will come will enhance opportunities to stamp out racism,” Mr Bruton said.
Mr Simpson said Basketball ACT had started implementing other measures to ensure racism was not tolerated in the sport, including the appointment of an expert in the field of racial discrimination with legal qualifications to review their processes and programs about the existence of any racial discrimination.
He said that due to the age of the players and sensitivity of the allegations, the independent investigation had taken several months to ensure all parties were interviewed in a safe, inclusive environment and all views were heard.
“Further, we note the strain this has placed on players, families and clubs and the length of time it has taken to finalise the investigator’s report, and we are appreciative of the patience from all involved,” Mr Simpson said.
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However, he also said there was more that could be done to overcome all forms of discrimination in the sport.
“Basketball ACT is committed to the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination from all aspects of its programs, and as such, will commit to actioning these recommendations as a matter of priority and in consultation with our member clubs,” Mr Simpson said.
The recommendations also include that all Basketball ACT clubs, including volunteers and board members, must be fully aware of Basketball Australia’s policy on racial discrimination. Clubs must also undertake regular and genuine education and training programs to make all their members and staff, players and spectators fully aware of their duties and responsibilities to abide by Basketball Australia’s policy and to set the example for others.
“While Basketball ACT believes this complaint has now been concluded, we will continue to work with the wider basketball community to consult and educate, in order to overcome all forms of discrimination,” Mr Simpson said.
The Winnunga Warriors girls under-14 team went on to win the pool B grand final in December.