Alex Blackwell speaking at the NSW Office of Sport awards
Alex Blackwell has been at the forefront of some of the greatest change cricket has seen. Photo: Paul McMillan

The annual UNSW Blues and Sport Awards Dinner will have an extra sparkle this year when it is held on Friday 12 March 2021 at Royal Randwick Racecourse.

A new award that celebrates members of the community who uphold the values and vision of the UNSW Women in Sport and Active Recreation Strategy will be presented for the first time. Named for UNSW alumna and former Australian cricket captain Alex Blackwell, the award recognises her contribution to women’s sport – both at UNSW and across Australia.

The nominees come from a wide range of sports and are being recognised for advocating for women and girls in sport and active recreation; being a trailblazer for women in the leadership of a sporting club or organisation; coaching or developing programs that have increased women’s participation in sport; or supporting or being a role model for girls and women who want to participate or be involved in sport.

UNSW Outdoors Club executive members Miranda Jordan, Jenny Stansby and Maria Lastra Cagigas were nominated for their commitment to leadership in the male dominated pursuit of extreme outdoor sports and strong advocacy for women and LGBTIQ people in their club.

President of the UNSW Taekwondo Club Miriam Abd Elmesseh has displayed outstanding commitment to the development of women's participation and women's leadership in sport. She has consistently led the way in encouraging women's involvement in any sport they wish to pursue through her involvement in the delivery of the SHE CAN program.

UNSW Waterski & Wakeboard Club executive member Ellen Rowles has been instrumental in increasing female participation in her sport, including the design of a women’s specific club event that she continues to champion.

UNSW Netball Club’s Keira Nightingale has been an incredibly influential leader and role model for younger women who aspire to leadership roles. In her time at the club, she has dedicated herself to improving the capacity of her team and helping students on the committee to learn skills like leadership and problem solving.

Blackwell is delighted to have the new award named in her honour.

“UNSW has shown great commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion through its sporting programs,” she says. “The launch of the Active Women Strategy showed a strong dedication to the pursuit of fairness in sport and this new award will be a key part of recognising the champions in our community. It’s a great honour to have the award named after me and I look forward to celebrating the first winner of the Alex Blackwell Award at the event.”

As a cricketer, Blackwell has been at the forefront of some of the greatest change the game has seen – change that saw women’s cricket transform from an amateur sport that received little media attention to the juggernaut it is now becoming.

Blackwell has long been motivated by doing what is right, rather than what is easy, and it is this quality in particular that inspired the name of this new award. She is a vocal advocate for LGBTQI people, deciding to come out publicly in 2013 to allow her to more effectively fight to eliminate homophobia in sport. She also played a key role in the launch of Cricket Australia’s trans and gender diverse inclusion policy in 2019.

In 2018 she became the first woman to be elected on to the board of Cricket NSW in the organisation’s 159-year history and in 2019 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by UNSW for her work in fighting for equality on and off the cricket pitch. In 2020 she received the Trailblazer award at the NSW Office of Sport's Her Sport Her Way awards, recognising the work she has done in increasing opportunities for participation and leadership for women in sport.

The UNSW Blues and Sports Awards Dinner was not able to be held in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, so the 2021 iteration will celebrate achievements from across 2019 and 2020.