Marg and Bella have been the face and soul of Prahran Netball Association for more than 33 years. From its humble beginnings in the Cato Street car park on Sunday mornings, where the car park had to be swept of broken glass and debris before play, PNA has grown to more than 1200 players.
In 1988 Council rejected a proposal to build 6 courts on Thomas Oval (the elevated oval opposite Royal South Yarra Lawn Tennis Club). At the time, the Mayor was reported as saying
“Historically, it is correct to say that women have not had their fair share of sporting facilities in the city. We would like to find a place for the netballers but we just don’t have the room and Thomas Oval must be kept as parkland”
In 2003 and after years of asking for a dedicated netball facility, Orrong Romanis, with two courts, became the proud home of PNA. We quickly outgrew these two courts and since 2009 have hired two courts from Bialik College (in Boorondara) on Saturday mornings. We are grateful to the Bialik community for sharing their superb facility with us but we have no guarantee it will be available to us in the future and it doesn’t allow us to create a community based in Stonnington.
In 2012, juggling 1200 players with limited court space, we again approached Stonnington Council for more courts.
In 2014 the Council’s draft Recreation Strategy was released. Despite our comprehensive submissions the draft strategy did not make any mention of netball. We were disappointed to say the least.
On behalf of our players we lodged a formal complaint with the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission. We had no choice and nothing to lose.
We considered then, as we do now that council does not provide an equal or fair share of sporting resources for womens’ sport. There are no female hockey or soccer clubs operating in Stonnington. All of council's 26 cricket pitches and ovals are used almost exclusively for cricket, football and rugby. (We agree that girls, in increasing numbers, are participating in football and cricket, and of course, we support that participation). But in fairness, Council should also adequately support the most popular of girls' sports – netball.
Discrimination in sport is endemic and starts at the grass roots level of not providing sufficient sporting facilities for women.
Although, our legal advice is that we would surely succeed in a discrimination complaint against Stonnington Council, our objective was and always has been to act in the best interests of the Stonnington community. We agreed to abandon the complaint pending a feasibility study into an indoor stadium.
In 2015 Council conducted a feasibility study into building a 3-court stadium at Orrong Romanis. The feasibility study comprehensively concluded that it was not feasible to build a stadium at Orrong Romanis for numerous reasons. We agreed it was not in the best interests of the residents of Stonnington to build one more court for a then estimated cost of $20 million and that we needed to look to another site.
Since that time, with our full support, Council has been actively looking for a location for a sports stadium anywhere in Stonnington. More than 51 potential sites were investigated.
Finally, in late 2016, Council identified the Chadstone Bowls Club in Percy Treyvaud Memorial Park bowls site as the preferred site for the Stonnington Stadium.
A feasibility study is underway to investigate the Chadstone site and three other sites in Stonnington.
As is the case with any change, and particularly in a densely populated council area like Stonington, wherever a new building is proposed, local communities will consider themselves adversely affected. Compromises need to be made to achieve equity and efficiency in the use of our precious space. In netball, every team member is needed to get the ball from one end of the court to the other. The Stonnington community is like a netball team. We need to work together to achieve the best outcome for our community, which is to provide a proper indoor stadium so that more than 2,000 people can engage in indoor sport on a weekly basis.
If the Chadstone Bowls Club site is selected as the preferred site we, as a community, need to ensure that our bowlers are well accommodated in equal if not better facilities than they currently have and not too far from their current location. There is room for everyone at Percy Treyvaud Reserve.
The feasibility study approach being adopted by Council is the right and fair way for the Stadium site to be identified.
We all have an obligation to support this right-minded approach to ensure a fair and balanced use of valuable council land.
A Stonnington Sports Stadium is needed. Lets get on with it.