Sunshine Coast coach introduces inclusive netball program with huge success

Denise French is one of eight across Australia to receive the 2018 Australia Post One Netball Community Award, after she was recognised for her work in developing the Inclusive Netball program at the Nambour and Districts Netball Association.  Australia Post One Netball Community Ambassador and Queensland Firebirds midcourter, Jemma Mi Mi, presented the award at the preliminary finals at the club over the weekend.

French developed the program after coaching Suncorp NetSetGO sessions and began working with children that experienced anxiety and lacked confidence when faced with progressing into a higher level of netball.  The Inclusive Netball program aims to create opportunities for children with social interaction challenges, physical and intellectual disabilities to join in and play netball while developing coordination, ball skills and learning game rules.

With attendance at almost 100% across the season, French has been able to slowly grow participants numbers to see the program become an intrinsic component of the association.  Denise was thrilled to see 17 children with a range of anxiety issues, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, non-verbalism and hearing impairment, getting involved.

The success of the program also saw students from the University of Southern Cross Occupational Therapy department volunteering their time, with one student looking to introduce Inclusion Netball in her Northern Territory club after completing her studies.

Ms Mi Mi said she was inspired reading the stories from all the nominations which reinforced how many unsung heroes are working tirelessly across clubs and associations in every state and territory.

“Denise’s work in creating an environment that builds confidence, a sense of community and belonging is a shining example of how the passion of individuals can bring people together through netball and create a lasting impression on the participants, their families and the region. It’s an honour to be involved in recognising her fantastic efforts.”

Australia Post General Manager of Marketing and Community, Andrea Pearman said: “As Netball Australia’s Community and Social Inclusion Partner it is a privilege to bring these Awards to fruition each year and recognise outstanding people like Denise who are doing such amazing work, often in their own time, to bring people together and create inclusive, healthier communities.”

“The stories that we see each year of the wonderful diversity and inclusion work being done right across Australia reinforces the importance of these Awards, and other programs like it, in highlighting the power of sport to help communities work better for everyone. Denise’s commitment deserves to be celebrated and it serves as a great example for others to follow.”