In December 2018, Croydon Borough Council awarded her the Freedom of the Borough, the highest civic honour a local authority can give to its residents. This has propelled her into two key roles at UK Athletics (UKA).
The first role is the Equality, Diversity Engagement Lead, and the other is Domestic Competition Manager. The impact of Covid-19 and the tragic death of George Floyd presented her with significant challenges this year.
The domestic competition role covers Officials, Coach Education, Track and Field competition licensing and Runbritain (road running). This is a big remit, but when Covid 19 presented itself, it meant that the track and field season was in danger. By working with the home countries, track and field did resume within the government guidance, but much later than usual. The primary focus was to get some form of competition available for UK athletes to compete.
We were delighted to speak to Donna about the immense challenges she and her colleagues faced over the last few months, as well as the hope and optimism she has for the future.
The death of George Floyd in May escalated the conversation of Race within our sport and we wanted to truly understand what the feeling was ‘on the ground’. We invited our athletics family to join the conversation ‘Let’s talk about Race’ so we could hear personal experiences and find solutions. There was no agenda intentionally, so that people could feel comfortable being open and honest about how they truly felt. We delivered 17 ‘Let’s talk about Race’ sessions which totally blew me away; the experiences, the honesty, the frustration was prevalent. This proved that positive action needs to be taken as a National Governing Body. From this we set up focus groups to revisit the conversations and agree priority recommendations to be included in our Diversity Action Plan for 2021-2024.
With it being such a strange year to deliver our ED&I activities. We decided for Black History Month this year, to take advantage of delivering activities online and will be kicking off with ‘Noir Voices’. This is a series of online sessions with special guests covering various topics from Black female images to Black leaders in athletics with an educational undertone. The programme is jammed packed and the UKA ED&I Advocates have worked extremely hard to pull together the busiest BHM plan ever.
Outside of my day job, I also sit on the Sport Honours Committee. I recently joined the Honours Diversity Committee which has a clear focus on ensuring the work of the Honours system is properly reflective of UK society. This work is important, as it is not fully understood within ethnic minority communities how the Honours system works. As an advocate of ED&I, it is my duty as a committee member to share positive stories and educate others on how the system works.
October is also Breast Cancer awareness month. I am a survivor of breast cancer and a Breast Cancer Now Ambassador. It is important for me to spread the awareness message to all, particularly those from an ethnic background. In our community, we do not often talk about cancer openly. We must not be afraid to, as that alone can save lives. So, I say “be breast aware and touch, look, check!”
Although this year has been challenging. I had much to celebrate with the 20th Anniversary since that iconic 400m final at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, where I finished fourth. I am blessed to have been part of history with Cathy Freeman flying the Aboriginal and the Australian flag. That is Black History in itself. So, we must remain positive and look forward; next year we have many sporting events to look forward to including the Olympic and Paralympic Games. My message for Black History Month to everyone is “let’s embrace adversity and celebrate diversity”.