Blackwell the proud driver of CA inclusion policy

Cricket Australia takes action to include transgender and gender diverse people in elite and community cricket

Erica James hadn't picked up a cricket bat in 27 years. Born a boy but feeling from a very young age that she should in fact have been a girl, she played cricket in her childhood but drifted away from the sport when she tired of playing in boys' teams.

"I spent the next twenty years or so playing video games, hiding away from the world," James said. "I didn't want to go outside, I didn't want to see people. I felt like a freak."

When James transitioned however, she made the bold decision to return to the sport she loved, which is when she came across Australian legend and current Cricket New South Wales board member Alex Blackwell.

"I finally made the decision that I should transition (and) one of the first things I did was Google 'trans-friendly cricket club'," she recalled. "Two days later I was meeting Alex Blackwell and the committee for the Universities' Women's Cricket Club.

"The moment that I realised that I could play in a team of women like me I was so surprised and so happy. I'm getting exercise now, I'm getting out there and meeting people – I'm making amazing friends."

Blackwell, the proud holder of a staggering 251 national caps and an LGBTI advocate, has more recently played an integral role in the development of Cricket Australia's new Elite Cricket Policy and Guidelines for Community Cricket, launched today at the MCG and supporting players electing to participate in cricket in line with their gender identity, whether or not this aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.

At a starting point, the Elite Cricket Policy aligns closely with the International Cricket Council’s Eligibility on the Basis of Gender Recognition and provides transgender and gender diverse cricketers guidance on how they can compete at the highest levels of the sport, consistent with their gender identity. As an additional measure, a referral process to an Expert Panel has been established for to ensure fair and meaningful competition.

The policy also permits transgender cricketers who are born overseas to compete in Australian domestic competitions as there is alignment with ICC policy.

The Guidelines for Community Cricket will assist clubs, players, administrators, coaches and other volunteers deliver a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment, free of harassment and discrimination for gender diverse players at the game's grassroots.

Image Id: 35C0C20E519C4DA88A423F4A738367B2 Image Caption: Cricket Australia continues to drive change to ensure cricket is a sport for all Australians

"Australian cricket has a really wonderful purpose, and that's to be Australia's favourite sport, and a sport for all Australians, and it's really important that we live by that, and we walk the talk," said Blackwell.

"These guidelines are very clearly about inclusivity, and that all people feel like cricket is a sport for them – that they would be safe and welcome to participate in the game, or to consume the game as a fan.

"I'm so proud of the work that Cricket Australia has done to get the Trans and Gender Diverse Inclusion Policy in place. It's taken six long months to get it done and we thought it was really, really important that trans and gender diverse people participate in the creation of that policy, so I'm very proud to say that that has happened.

"My friend and teammate Erica James has been a part of this policy development because she has a lived experience, and one that I'm pleased to say has been a positive experience for her."

James said having an official Policy in place was a major step in making cricket a safe and welcoming environment for all.

"Because of these guidelines, trans and gender diverse people can play a sport that we love without feeling like we're an imposter," she added.

"We don't need to go searching around for a club that will tolerate us, you just find a club that you want to join, and you join it."

CA chief executive Kevin Roberts weighed in on the issue, stating that "It doesn't make any sense that today, people are discriminated against, harassed or excluded, because of who they are."

"Today we demonstrate our commitment to include people with an affirmed gender identity in the game at every level and ensure all people in our communities experience Australian cricket's inclusive culture," Roberts continued.

"As strength, stamina and physique are all relevant factors when competing in competitive sport, transgender and gender diverse players will be supported to participate in elite cricket, subject to certain criteria through the implementation of this policy.

"Our dedication to a fair and inclusive sport across international and domestic competitions sees the policy strike a balance between the opportunity to participate and ensuring fair competition.

"From a community cricket level, the guidelines provide robust guidance for clubs and associations to encourage the participation of transgender and gender diverse players and support frameworks for people who are subject to any form of harassment or discrimination on the basis of their sex or gender identity.

"Discrimination of any sort has no place in the game and all of Australian Cricket is driven to ensure all cricketers can participate in a harassment-free environment."