Dawn Fraser hits out over Gina Rinehart stoush with Netball Australia

Pictured right is Olympic swimming legend Dawn Fraser, with mining magnate Gina Rinehart on the right.
Olympic swimming legend Dawn Fraser (R) has thrown her support behind Gina Rinehart over the Netball Australia furore. Pic: Getty

Australian Olympic legend Dawn Fraser has issued a warning for Australian sport after throwing her support behind Gina Rinehart, amid the $15 million sponsorship drama with Netball Australia (NA).

NA was rocked by news over the weekend that Rinehart's company, Hancock Prospecting, had withdrawn its $15 million sponsorship agreement with the cash-strapped organisation.

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The move came after a standoff between Netball Australia and Diamonds players, who expressed concerns about wearing the company's branding on their uniforms.

Those concerns stemmed from West Australian Indigenous player Donnell Wallam, who is set to debut this week against England, taking exception to the company's record on Indigenous matters dating back 40 years to comments by Rinehart's late father, Lang Hancock.

Hancock Prospecting is owned by Gina Rinehart, daughter of the company's founder, Lang, who suggested in the 1980s that Indigenous Australians should be sterilised to “breed themselves out” in coming years.

Gina Rinehart's company pulled its $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia before the Diamonds claimed the Constellation Cup. Pic: Getty
Gina Rinehart's company pulled its $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia before the Diamonds claimed the Constellation Cup. Pic: Getty

The sponsorship controversy has divided Australians, with many supporting the stance the Diamonds players took against the mining giant, while others agree with Rinehart's "virtue signalling" criticism of the country's netball stars.

Aussie swimming great and four-time Olympic gold medallist Fraser is among those who have hit out at the players for their standoff with Hancock, arguing that Rinehart has done more for Australian sport than they realise.

“I appreciate the fact that I’ve been associated with Mrs Rinehart. I really can’t understand the netballer that pulled the plug,” Fraser told 4BC Drive.

“Mrs G (Rinehart) has done a hell of a lot for not only swimming, but she’s looked after beach volleyball, she’s looked after women’s rowing and women’s synchronised swimming.

”I mean heavens above – what are these women doing.”

Rinehart has been criticised for failing to distance herself from her late father's shocking comments about Indigenous Australians, with Australian basketball great Andrew Gaze among the latest to lash out at Australia's richest woman.

This photo shows billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart smiling for the cameras.
Billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart has failed to distance herself from her late father Lang Hancock's shocking comments on Indigenous Australians. Pic: Getty

“She (Gina Rinehart) could have apologised for her father’s comments, distanced herself from them and told us that she doesn’t believe those things. Instead, she pulled her money out,” Gaze said to SEN about Hancock's decision to pull their $15 million sponsorship deal with Netball Australia.

“I am not blaming Gina Rinehart for her father’s comments, but what I don’t understand is why she won’t very publicly disassociate herself from them."

However, Fraser argued that Rinehart shouldn't be judged on the words of her late father, but instead applauded for her company's actions when it comes to Indigenous affairs.

“She’s not her father, I’d hate to be in her position and being slammed over the fact that my father did some things wrong,” Fraser argued.

“She’s a hard business woman, she’s been brought up in a hard business family.

“She’s now gone the other way and she’s helping people in sport to achieve to the best of their ability.

“Netball Australia has really gone wrong on this attitude I just think it’s so bad for the sport.”

Hancock takes aim at players over sponsorship stoush

In a statement explaining the decision to pull its $15 million funding from Netball Australia, Hancock criticised Australia's netball players after insisting it was "unnecessary for sports organisations to be used as the vehicle for social or political causes".

Hancock also accused the players of "virtue signalling" and argued that the mining companies actions on Indigenous affairs spoke for themselves, pointing to the company's Hancock’s Roy Hill Community Foundation in West Australia and its Hanrine Futures program - both of which are centred around the support, education and employment of Indigenous Australians.

Clinton Wolf, the managing director of National Indigenous Times echoed this sentiment in an op-ed featured in the publication.

Wolf is also a non-executive director for a not-for-profit company that offers secondary and tertiary education scholarships for Indigenous children in Western Australia, called Madalah LTD.

Pictured here, Indigenous Diamonds star Donnell Wallam getting ready to shoot the ball.
Indigenous Diamonds star Donnell Wallam was ultimately willing to wear the Hancock Prospecting branding on her Australia uniform before the company pulled its sponsorship. Pic: Getty

“The Roy Hill Community Foundation quickly committed to a multi-year, multimillion-dollar funding arrangement to ensure that many Indigenous kids could now have the opportunity they so desperately needed,” he said.

“The Roy Hill Community Foundation’s Hanrine Futures Program funded by the Hancock Group of companies will provide long-term scholarships as well as training, work experience and internships through to employment.”

“Did Madalah agonise over partnering with Mrs Rinehart and her companies? Absolutely not.”

Fraser admits one of her biggest fears stemming from the Netball Australia furore is that Hancock - who also pumps millions of dollars of sponsorship into other sports such as swimming, rowing and volleyball - will pull out of their other Aussie sporting commitments as a result of the controversy.

“I don’t think (the players have this story straight) and I don’t know the full story either, but I really cannot understand it, it’s bad for the sport, it’s bad for those girls she said no to,” Fraser said.

“She (Rinehart) might stop her sponsorship with other sports now and I’d hate to see that happen to be honest with you.”

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