'Strongest woman I've ever known': Alex Bunton, Capitals ready to raise domestic violence awareness

VIRGINIA Bunton's daughter is the most incredible person she knows.

Alex Bunton, a talented WNBL basketballer who won a World Cup silver medal with the Opals in 2018, last year shared her harrowing experience with domestic violence at the hands of a former partner while she was pregnant with her daughter, Opal.

Just over 12 months on, the 29-year-old has driven a domestic violence awareness round for her team UC Capitals who will create awareness and raise money for Canberra's Domestic Violence Crisis Service in their final-round match against Perth this weekend.

Alex's initiative and courage has her mother in awe and not for the first time.

"She's the most resilient and strongest woman I've ever known," Virginia Bunton told ESPN. "Alex has gone from living in fear, like all domestic violence victims, and unsure of how to express her experience to then realising she's got all this incredible support around her.

"Watching her blossom as she realises she has got a voice, she can speak and she can do something to help other people, I think that's the most incredible part of all this."

Support comes in many forms and gestures. It's a message from a former team mate asking how her team can support the initiative. It's the big, warm hugs from team mates, a supportive hand on Alex's arm when words won't do.

"I had a couple of girls almost not know what to say but I could still feel the compassion and empathy from them which was a beautiful thing," she said.

"It's hard because sometimes sharing your story, you don't want people to feel sorry for you in a way. I haven't exclusively shared it with everyone but they definitely felt the importance behind this and I think that's why it means so much to me to have them jump on board.

"They don't have to say anything. It's a hug or just a hand on my arm, even some of our support staff some people can't even find the words to say something and that's a beautiful thing because it shows they're there for me.

"It's meaningful sometimes without words, that's the raw emotion."

Bunton returned to basketball late in 2021 not only after what she experienced and giving birth to Opal but after retiring two years earlier through injury and a staggering 11 knee surgeries.

Now back on court, doing what she loves, Bunton has embraced the camaraderie, sisterhood and support network that comes with being part of a team sport.

She understands and values her platform.

"It (the lead-up to domestic violence round) has been really heavy but it balances out because I know this is so good, it's going places and it means so much," she said.

"I've had people reach out, women come up to me, and even teenage girls, after games and give me a big hug and just say thank you, people share their experience with DV with me.

"It just reminds me all the time -- it doesn't matter how much or little you say the fact I'm out there doing something will make change.

"'I'd be silly not to make the most of the platform I do have."

In the lead-up to the Caps round, Bunton organised for a family violence officer from the Australian Federal Police to speak to the playing group which varies in age from teenagers to women in their mid-30s.

"It was really shocking for some of the girls to learn about the reality of what domestic violence actually is and because of the stigma and what's at times in the media," Alex said. "It's much deeper than that and a lot of them were taken back by the statistics and the stories that were shared and the reality.

"The more we can have the conversation the better. The biggest thing about the conversation is some people can listen, some people can join in, some people can carry that conversation on to someone else. It's not about being talked at, the conversation is going to be different for everyone.

"That was a massive reminder of why this is so important."

Capitals teammate Jade Melbourne said: "It means a lot to 'Bunts' and because she's been through it and it means so much to her, it means so much to us, as her teammates and a whole club. We support her and what she's doing, her courage to stand up, bravery to share her story and dedicate a round to it. It's really special and we can't wait to get out there, promote it and end the stigma around domestic violence."

Lucille Bailie, UC Capitals general manager and WNBL champion, was also quick to throw her support behind Alex and the overall initiative.

"Domestic violence is a really serious issue in the community and our job is to support Alex, the players, and our club while wrapping them up in a positive way that educates and provides a positive call to action," Bailie said.

"We acknowledge these are at times really heavy issues and they'll impact different people differently so we're being brave in supporting and taking on these issues, supporting our athletes and we're very conscious that we need to present the issue, help educate and raise awareness and provide positive ways for people to engage with the issue and the messaging."