December 2017

20 APAC / December 2017 , involved in Basketball. A number of years ago we developed a framework, the Inclusive Basketball Strategy (IBS), that created a structured and clearly defined approach to creating those environs and places where people can stand the best possible chance of actively accessing and understanding inclusion and to ensure its philosophy and practice is embedded within the Business of Basketball. “Essentially, the prime objective of my department is to continue to improve our service delivery, educate the basketball community on inclusion principles, build intercultural relationships and opportunities, grow public awareness and support for inclusive programs and continue to grow participation across a wide number of areas state-wide thus enhancing the whole community by providing equitable, inclusive and accessible basketball.” Referring to inclusion, Karen tells us how despite many efforts and a marked improvement, diversity is still not normal within sport. Sport is no longer just about the development of athletes and the administration of competitions, but also about inclusion, and making everyone feel at home within the community. Nowadays, sport is expected to offer a range of programs for people, no matter their ability, age, gender, race, culture or sexual orientation. Diversity needs to be nurtured, people need to be supported and educated and it needs to be prioritized to become everyday business. This all falls in line with her ultimate goal for Basketball Victoria and for people who are sometimes unfairly excluded. “Working as General Manager of Inclusion and Strategy, my goal is to continue to empower transformational inclusion: a mental model shift that enhances the competencies and capabilities of Basketball Victoria and challenges the status quo. As a General Manager, I have the ability to influence and execute beyond my departmental positional power as I have been acknowledged as a trusted source of advice and counsel. However, it is vital that I do not become complacent and ensure we continue to lead the sporting inclusion agenda by contributing holistically to the success of our sport. It is imperative that we persist in producing enabling environments by training and supporting associations to operate effectively and efficiently in this space, increase accessibility and not lose the momentum of work we have already achieved in this area. We must maintain the key existing personnel operating within existing programs, whilst developing and leveraging their potential and knowledge to influence the agenda via continuous learning and succession planning. “Insufficient information exists for health care professionals, parents of children with impairment and people with acquired injury on how to engage in wheelchair basketball as a public health intervention. Considerable research data however does exist on the benefits to the Quality of Life outcomes for people with impairment who engage in sport. We are utilizing this data to produce a targeted marketing and communication intervention, articulating key effective messaging and program information that is assisting to facilitate social change and increased participation, which is critical to the ultimate overall success of this particular project.” Evidently, there is still a lot more work to do with regard to inclusion and diversity, but Karen has already overcome many challenges. As part of her role, Karen has opened up many avenues and presented many opportunities for people in the local community who may not always get the chance. She talks to us about the overall perception of sport, and a culture of the fear of the unknown, something she has worked to change. “Perception is still the key barrier to sport participation. There is still a fear of the unknown paving the way to marginalization and exclusion. This has led to highlighting a required need to influence thinking and action and place a focus on access and support. “Over the years, I have acknowledged the difficulties in establishing a truly inclusive basketball environment, but have remained unwavering in my commitment to diversity and inclusive practice and my belief that continued advocacy is the key driver to Inclusion.” Moving forward, Karen has identified some of the major issues which are detrimental to Inclusion programmes, and she tells us how she will plan to change these. Relying on funding alone is not something that will help inclusion programmes survive, and Karen is keen for Basketball Victoria to implement a strategy which will help solve the funding issue, which is definitely applicable under her stewardship. “Essentially, the majority of Inclusion programs under my directorship have begun due to funding, however the reliance on funding alone to be the sole contributor to program sustainability will be to our ultimate demise. Basketball Victoria must implement a strategic focus on gaining sponsorship/philanthropic support to ultimately create a sustained focus in this area and allow more people to participate in basketball. “A major challenge in the wheelchair basketball space is the cost of basketball-specific wheelchairs. Day chairs should not be used in sport: they are chunky and do not glide as smoothly on the court making the experience less pleasurable. We need financial support to purchase enough chairs to enable new programs to begin, so more people can experience the holistic benefits basketball provides. “Ultimately, the journey is not over for Basketball yet. I still see gaps in practice that if left unattended, could widen and break the work achieved to date. The scope is far greater than the capacity of a single person. Associations still need support and encouragement to begin work and internally we must continue to support, advise and strengthen capacity. I will continue to challenge the basketball landscape and the wider community to ensure that anyone can be involved, welcomed, nurtured and developed.”