Ashlee Hyde dreams of “making it” in netball, so that she can represent Indigenous women and be an idol or mentor for other Indigenous youth to follow.
The 18-year-old who has burst onto the Victorian netball scene since crossing over from basketball only three seasons ago believes too many young Indigenous people are currently slipping through the cracks of talent pathways or choosing not to play sport at all. It is something she says must change.
Ashlee was set to play for Casey Demons in the Victorian Netball League (VNL) before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she believes she can use her netball to be a role model for other young Indigenous women.
“Sport really brings people together, whether it be netball or other types of sport,” she said.
“I think it is really important for young Indigenous people to play sport. If it is not for the health benefits, it is for meeting people.
“I think I am the only Indigenous person playing at Casey Demons, so definitely getting more Indigenous people in sport would be beneficial.”
As a REAL program and Laguntas Sisters alumni, Ashlee said she had learned more about herself and her culture by being involved with KGI.
“I go to a school where out of 1600 kids there are only seven or 10 Indigenous people, the school before that it was just one other family and me,” she explained.
“It was really important to be able to connect, especially at that time being a teenager and having struggles.
“Going back to school after my first REAL camp, I definitely felt more confident and comfortable in my skin, and I cared less what other people thought. Because I knew that I belonged, and even if it was not there, it was when I was with my people.”
Ashlee has an Aboriginal mother, but says it was at her first REAL camp in 2017 she discovered her Indigenous culture’s depth.
“Being able to learn from mentors and elders has helped me understand so much more than I did. I can communicate with those people so much more after going on these camps,” she said.
“If I ever have questions about culture, I now feel that I can go to these people and learn more.”
In 2015 the KGI partnered with Netball Victoria to develop an Indigenous Women’s Netball Program- Laguntas Sisters to increase physical participation and health-being outcomes through netball.
KGI supports young Indigenous women from a cultural and leadership perspective throughout the program, whilst Netball Victoria provides fitness, skills, and industry training to inspire future talent.
Ashlee said the program paved the way for her future ambitions.
“It was actually such a great experience to be around such strong empowering women who were so connected to culture. And there were plenty of elders, it was such a good opportunity for connection,” she said.
“If you look at state teams and stuff, most are majorly white, so I feel like a lot of talent from Indigenous athletes is not being seen or encouraged to play, to begin with.
“I am studying at the Richmond Institute of Sport Leadership next year, and I am doing the dual diploma of Sport Development and Leadership Management. I really want to use that to coach Indigenous teams or to go to rural Indigenous communities. I want to use that to bring people into sport.”
Ashlee said that Indigenous youth could further benefit from playing sport because of the improvements it could make to their lifestyle.
“If I am having a bad day and I’ve got training, I’ve always got something to look forward to, which is great for me and gives me structure,” she said.
“Being active is really good for mental health, especially being Indigenous, because there are some prevalent issues. Following a healthy lifestyle will help you pull out of that, and you will feel so much better and happier in yourself than if you followed the roads, you might see your friends go down.
“By being active and eating healthier, I feel so much better. It helps me to feel fresh and be more energized and want to keep doing more.”