When Peter Behrendorff and his family moved to Carlton in 2014 and found out that there was no local soccer team, he made it his mission to start one which encouraged diverse communities from the local housing estates to play on the team.
After doing some research on how to start a club, he was pointed to Sports Without Borders and through them he joined the Heart of Carlton after school program at Carlton Primary School. At the completion of the program he launched a trial Australian football team with the Auskick Multicultural Centre to coincide with the beginning of the AFL football season. Seven children turned up on the first day which grew throughout the year to about 30 in total.
Children of many different nationalities played footy and lots of parents turned up to watch. “We ended up using that as a real incentive to get them learning English as well as Aussie rules because it’s sort of like a language in Melbourne,” said Behrendorff.
After watching a show called ‘Go Back To Where You Came From’ - an SBS television series that featured six Australians with different political beliefs who are sent on a journey many refugees make to get to Australia with the aim to deepen their understanding - he decided to greet his neighbours living in nearby housing estates. “We just started saying hello to a lot of our neighbours walking past… we found that lead to a lot of great conversations and that’s why the recruitment for the footy club was so good,” said Behrendorff.
A lot of kids got involved who hadn’t played before and a lot of parents who knew nothing about it came to watch. By the end of the AFL football season they officially became the Carlton Junior Football Club. They got approval to play at the much larger Princes Park, which made it easier to accommodate 60 kids from 24 different nationalities. “It was all driven with the foundation of what Sports Without Borders did,” said Behrendorff.
As a child growing up in Traralgon he played a lot of football. When his family moved to the city when he was 15 years old, none of the students at his school wanted to know him in the first few months. But when the football season started, he got involved and realised he was accepted. “If it was that hard for me, that it felt like another world moving from the country, then how hard is it for the kids and families moving from another country where it’s all different and they may not speak our language?,” said Behrendorff. “I thought, if sport can do that for me then at least it can chip away at making it work for those communities.”