It is a Wednesday afternoon, and dozens of girls are making their way to the Riverside Courts in Ascot Vale for netball training.
- Kensington netball club has more than 160 junior players, but there is no public court in their suburb
- Since 2017 they have been asking the City of Melbourne for additional facilities
- Council says it will build two multipurpose courts and install three netball rings at a public park
The sprawling venue near the Maribyrnong River has multiple netball and tennis courts.
However, parent and volunteer coach for the Kensington Junior Netball Club (KJNC) Max Barry said it was only accessible by car.
“It is terrific that we’ve been able to get this facility — the club hires it through Moonee Valley — but it is obviously not too convenient,” Mr Barry said
The KJNC started in late 2016 when a group of parents were looking for local sporting options for girls.
Within three months, they had 50 members, with four teams competing.
In the past five years, membership has more than tripled and the club now fields 16 teams as well as a development squad.
Club secretary Michelle Foster said girls were disproportionately less likely to play sport than boys.
“And for girls from CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) communities, the rate is even lower,” she said.
“We are keeping these girls engaged in sport.”
But the club does not have reliable access to any local courts, forcing them to travel to another municipality every week for training.
Jess Allen, 10, started playing netball three years ago and said it was “really, really fun”.
“It would be so much easier if we could train closer to home,” she said.
Jess’s mother, Kylie Diwell, said public netball facilities in Kensington would be great for the community.
“Kensington is a very multicultural suburb, and we do have girls from many different backgrounds, and we want to maintain an inclusive club,” Ms Diwell said.
‘We need a home’
Club secretary Michelle Foster said they needed a hub as currently training was split across four facilities.
Since 2017, Ms Foster has been calling for their club to get priority access to the local recreation centre before 7pm.
At the moment, they have access to the recreation centre for five hours a week, which is only enough time to train half their teams.
They are also asking for a public netball court to be built in Kensington so the girls can practice after school and on weekends.
“Many of the girls lived in the public housing flats opposite, so it is straightforward for them to get to training at the recreation centre,” Ms Foster said.
“Unlike the case with adult sports, our participants can’t drive, and there are different safety considerations in terms of public transport and walking options for teenage girls as compared with adult men.”
City of Melbourne say they are making an investment
In a statement, the City of Melbourne admitted demand for facilities like netball courts had been increasing with the population.
The council says it is investing $42 million to redevelop the Kensington Recreation Centre, including three multipurpose courts to replace the one currently in use.
“We have worked to reduce demand on the courts, for example, relocating exams that have previously been held on the courts to Kensington Town Hall,” a spokesperson said.
“Along with our significant investment in the Kensington Community Recreation Centre, we are also installing three netball rings at JJ Holland Park. The new facilities will be complete by the end of the year.”
While the club welcomes the investment, they worry it will be too little too late.
“The way netball is growing, by the time this thing opens it is not going to be enough,” Mr Barry said.