Jodie Fields praises positive steps in female sport.

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By Jodie Fields - Manager Female Operations ACA

On Wednesday, Netball Australia and the Australian Netball Players' Association signed an historic collective agreement, prior to the inaugural season of the national netball competition in 2017.

It is this industrial framework that has allowed the players the ability to bargain collectively with Netball Australia, and to increase the average wage of professional netballers across the country.

It is vitally important that female sport continues to fight for greater exposure, greater pay and the establishment of fair and equitable terms and conditions moving forward. Many challenges that are faced by the netballers, are faced by our female cricketers as well.

Currently, our female players do not have a collective bargaining agreement which establishes this framework to bargain for these things. Therefore, it is essential that females are included on the next Australian Cricket Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure the growth of the sport and support of the players - just like the netballers. This process begins in the coming months.

While the improved remuneration is important, what is also critical in Netball Australia's Collective Playing Agreement is the provisions made for heightened welfare conditions.

The introduction of the parental care policy for players with young children, private health contributions, and income protection for injury and pregnancy are important to all female sport. The fact that netballers will now be protected for up to two years, is a vital part of the agreement and should be applauded.

The stipulation that the hours of 10am - 4pm are protected for work or study is another crucial aspect, which allows our female athletes to maintain professional employment should they wish. While many female sports are on the road to professionalisation; it is the establishment of protections and expectations such as these that is critical to this journey.

With the introduction of the women's AFL next year, the continued success of the Matilda's in women's football and of course the great gains female cricket has made in recent times, it indeed is a great time to be involved in women's sport.

I wish to whole-heartedly congratulate Bianca Chatfield on her success as the head of the Australian Netball Players Association in this negotiation, and wish them every success with the new league in 2017.

Jodie Fields is ex-captain of the Australian Female Cricket team, current ACT Meteors player and Manager of Female Operations at the ACA.