Willmette played a major role in the development of women’s basketball in New South Wales and Australia as a player, coach, administrator, selector and delegate. Much of the success the women’s game enjoys today was down to the years of service provided by Willmette.
For more than 30 years, Willmette was one of the strongest influences on the Australian women’s game, beginning in 1951 when she was the founding President and captain of the Barbarians Basketball Club, competing in the New South Wales women’s state league competition.
This was the beginning of a long affiliation with New South Wales basketball that saw her represent New South Wales as a player throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. Willmette’s contribution was not limited to the court, serving as a selector for a host of New South Wales State Teams between 1965 and 1981 and Head Coach of the senior women’s team between 1968 and 1969.
As a player and later as a coach Willmette would lead Grafton, Illawarra, Sutherland and Parramatta to state titles. It was her passion for the development of women’s basketball at the junior level that has had the most lasting impact.
During her tenure as Women’s Secretary Basketball New South Wales between 1962 and 1981, Willmette was the driving force behind the increase in female participation and introduction of the national championships for women at the junior levels.
In 1970 Willmette successfully proposed the introduction of the Australian Under 16 and Under 21 Women’s National Championships to keep players involved in the game for longer.
Australian Opals legends such as Karen Dalton, Wendy Laidlaw and Maree White were all heavily influenced by Willmette, who was a mentor to generations of young women coming through the New South Wales basketball ranks.
During this time Willmette was the inspiration behind several international tours by New South Wales teams, serving as Team Manager for a series of international tours from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.
Her service to basketball in New South Wales was recognised in 2011 when she was inducted into the Basketball New South Wales Hall of Fame.
Willmette’s service to basketball wasn’t limited to New South Wales, serving as the New South Wales delegate on the Women’s Council of the Australian Basketball Federation (now Basketball Australia) between 1961-1981 and treasurer from 1965-1981.
The involvement in the early Opals program saw Willmette serve as selector between 1966 and 1981, leading international tours in 1975 and 1976 as well as serving as the Team Manager for the 1971 FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil.
In 1977 Willmette received the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal and later received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 1982.
Basketball Australia Chair Scott Derwin said: “On behalf of Basketball Australia, I extend our deepest sympathies to Pamela’s family and friends at this difficult time.
“Few have had such a lasting impact on the game of basketball in this country as Pamela, with her contribution to the development and growth of women’s basketball in New South Wales and Australia immeasurable.
“Pamela will be remembered as one of the great contributors to basketball in this country.”