The dispute between Netball Australia and some of its star players over a $15 million sponsorship deal stems from the shocking claims Gina Rinehart’s father made decades ago.
Initially, the ramifications were said to be about players’ environmental concerns over the sponsorship by mining company Hancock Prospecting, owned by billionaire Ms. Rinehart.
The partnership between Hancock Prospecting and Netball Australia is reportedly worth $3.5 million a year through the end of 2025.
The Australian national team – the Diamonds – appeared in two Constellation Cup matches in New Zealand without the Hancock logo on their uniforms. NA denied that there was a uniform boycott.
But there’s a deeper story behind the apparent tension, dating back nearly four decades to what Ms. Rinehart’s father Lang Hancock said about “the Aboriginal problem.”
In a 1984 television interview, Mr Hancock made a shocking statement about Indigenous Australians, which has become a problem for the Diamonds, especially Aboriginal team member Donnell Wallam.
Donnell Wallam (pictured) is an Aboriginal woman and member of the Australian Diamonds netball team
“Those who aren’t good to themselves and can’t accept things, the half-castes — and this is where most of the trouble comes in,” said Mr. Hancock in the 1984 documentary, “Can’t Be Fairer.”
“I would anesthetize the water so that they are sterile and would reproduce in the future and that would solve the problem.”
Hancock died in 1992 at the age of 82, saying that Indigenous Australians who had been “assimilated” should be left alone.
“Those who are assimilated to, you know, earn a good living or earn wages in the civilized areas,” he said.
“Those who have been accepted into society and they have accepted society and can handle society, I would leave them alone.”
Former Diamonds captain Sharni Norder told the current squad that Hancock Prospecting is ‘a company that does not fit in with Netball Australia’s values’, Fox Sports reported.
Ms. Rinehart previously said that climate change is not a man-made phenomenon.
“We’ve always stood up for social justice, we’ve always been against gambling, no smoking…and there were and are other ways to seek sponsorship,” said Ms. Norder, who is an ambassador of the Sports Environment Alliance.
She also responds to Mr Hancock’s comments.
Gina Rinehart (right) is pictured with her father Lang Hancock, who started the Hancock Prospecting company. His comments from a 1984 interview angered members of the Diamonds team
‘Long Hancock’s past and what he said about the Indigenous peoples just isn’t suited to Australian sport.
“Netball Australia has always tried to be inclusive… we now have Donnell (Wallam) on the team.
“This is not a respectful course of action and even if Donnell wasn’t on the team, we need to do better.”
In a statement, Hancock Prospecting said it is “aware that questions have been raised recently about Hancock’s relationships with traditional owners.”
“Hancock has positive agreements with all Indigenous titleholders in the areas in which we operate, and provides very significant royalty payments to traditional owners in all of our mining areas, well over $300 million in the past seven years alone,” it said.
“We work very closely with the communities in providing training, jobs, business development and contract opportunities, as well as heritage, health and education initiatives.”
Donnell Wallam is pictured playing for the Queensland Firebirds against the Adelaide Thunderbirds on May 18, 2022 in Adelaide
Netball Australia chairman Marina Go stepped down on Monday and Diamonds players will meet with Hancock Prospecting over the sponsorship issue in the coming days.
On Tuesday, Netball Australia released a statement saying it had “become aware of cultural sensitivities expressed by a Diamonds team member regarding the placement of Hancock’s sponsor uniform logo.”
“Netball Australia and Hancock Prospecting have worked tirelessly to recognize and acknowledge the sensitivities, better understand that team member’s concerns and provide opportunities for support.”
The organization also said it was “not required to wear the Hancock Prospecting dress during the Constellation Cup due to additional obligations imposed on Netball Australia by the Australian Netball Players Association.”
Netball Australia denied claims that players boycotted the uniform.
The Australian Diamonds sing the national anthem during the Constellation Cup netball match between New Zealand and Australia at the Spark Arena on October 12, 2022 in Auckland, New Zealand. They didn’t wear the Hancock Prospecting logo on their outfits
Mr Hancock once said, ‘Nothing should be sacred to mining, whether it be your land, my land, the Blackfellow’s land or anyone else’s’.
“So the issue of Aboriginal land rights and things like this shouldn’t exist.”
Despite her father’s opinion, Ms. Rinehart has contributed to charitable work in Indigenous communities.
Clinton Wolf, director of the National Indigenous Times publication, wrote Monday that the negativity towards Netball Australia’s sponsorship was “hypocritical.”
Mr. Wolf is a non-executive director of Madalah, an indigenous children’s charity.
He said Ms Rinehart had entered into a “multi-million dollar multi-year funding scheme” for the charity after the Western Australian government refused.
“Madalah is proud to say that Ms. Gina Rinehart’s businesses are among Madalah’s most important sponsors and supporters,” he wrote.
Daily Mail Australia has reached out to both Netball Australia and Hancock Prospecting for further comment on this story.
Billionaire miner Gina Rinehart (left) is pictured with her father Lang Hancock in the 1980s